Mint, mint, mint. It was too easy to think that, though the immigration official waved him through when he cried: "Ma m`ere est mortellement malade," though the leading taxi opened up smartly for him when he mentioned Monsieur Mercer, he was destined for the butcher's block. The sun was about half way down the sky, but it was still up to Regulo Mark 4 and there was all this mint. The memory fumed in of his once trying out a small leg of fatty New Zealand in Mrs Meldrum's gas oven. It had emerged not well-cooked, and he had made a stew out of it. You could not really go wrong with a stew. There had been a lot of grease to skim off, though. The driver, a Moor as Enderby took him to be, was stewy in the armpits-no, more like a tin of Scotch Broth. But he was fumigating himself and his cab with a home-rolled cigarette that reeked of decent herbs, though possibly hallucinogenic. He also rolled his eyes. Soon, Enderby considered, the time must come for jettisoning his Enderby passport. Miss Boland would soon be uncovering aliases to the police. He could not be Hogg, he could not be Enderby. The nasty world outside had succeeded in taking pretty well everything away from him. Except his talent, except that.
A well-made road with trees, probably bougainvillea and eucalyptus and things. And plenty of mint. Also people in turbans, caftans, nightgowns with stripes, and what-you-call-them djebalas. The driver drove with the automatism of a pony pulling a trap, though much faster, his being not to reason why Enderby had to reach the tour hotel before everyone else. It was time to tell him some other place to go. Enderby said:
"Je veuy aller `a l'anger."
"Regardez," Enderby said, "I'm not going to that bloody hotel. Une femme. Une question d'une femme. Il faut que j''evite une certaine femme."
With care the driver steered his cab round the next comer and stopped by the kerb. His hand-brake ground painfully. "Une femme?" It was a pleasant little residential avenue full of mint. But down it a bare-legged man in Sancho Panza hat and loose brown clouts urged a laden donkey. "Tu veux une femme?"
"Just the opposite," said Enderby, frowning at the familiarity. "J'essaie `a, 'eviter une femme, comme fai d'ej`a dit."
"Tu veux garcon?
"Let's get this straight," cried Enderby. "I want to get away. Comment puis-je get to bloody Tangier?"
The driver thought about that. "Avion parti," he said. "Chemin de fer -" He shrugged. Then he said: "You got money, Charlie?"
"I thought it would come to that," said Enderby. He brought out his small bundle of old international tips. What was the currency here? There were a couple of notes with a bland capped and robed ruler on them. Banque du Maroc and a lot of Arabic. What were these? Dirhams. He had, it seemed, ten dirhams. He didn't know how much they were worth. Still, resourceful Enderby. Ready cash for all emergencies of travel. The driver was quick to grab the ten dirhams. He pushed them, as if he were a woman, into his unbuttoned hair-whorled brown breast. Then he cheerfully started up his cab again. "Where are we going?" Enderby wanted to know. The driver didn't answer; he just drove.
Enderby was past being uneasy, though. After all, what was he trying to do except borrow time against the inevitable? If Yod Crewsy died, well then, he, his supposed murderer, could only be put in jail for a long period, the death penalty having kindly been abolished. And in jail poetry could be written. There would be ghastly stews, but he knew all about those. Great things had been written in jail-Pilgrim's Progress, De Profundis, even Don Quixote. Nothing to worry about there. Slops out. Here's your skilly, you horrible murderer, you. Snout-barons. What you in for, matey? I murdered a practitioner of foul and immoral art. You done a good job, then, you did. But, sheep for a lamb (all this mint, mint everywhere), he had things to do first. They had to catch him first, and it was up to him, rules of the game, to make things difficult. They drove down a great smooth highway, then turned right. It was all French colonialism, with decent official buildings, green lawns, palms. Little Moroccan girls were coming out of school, gaily shrieking, and some were sped off home to their mint tea, as Enderby supposed, in haughty squat automobiles. But soon the road changed its character. Instead of shooting cleanly along an artery, the cab began to engage a capillary that was pure, and dirty, Moorish.
"Where are we going?" asked Enderby again.
"Djemaa el Fna," said the driver. This meant nothing to Enderby. They were now honking among fruit-barrows, donkey-whippers, brown and black vociferators in pointed hoods and barmcake turbans and even little woolly caps like Mr Mercer's. The faecal-coloured houses and windowless shops (loaves, strangled fowls, beads, eggplants) bowed in towards each other at the top. Somebody wailed about Allah in the near distance. It was what was known as very picturesque, all laid on for Winston Churchill as amateur painter. Then, shouted at through gold or no teeth, the cab-flanks resonantly fisted, they drove into a great square which was full of robed people and very loud. There seemed to be native shows going on: Enderby glimpsed a fire-swallower and a man who let snakes crawl all over his person. Then, above the heads of the crowd, a small black boy went up into the air, wiggled his fingers from his ears, then sailed down again. Enderby did not really like any of this. The driver stopped and, with a vulgar thumb, pointed to where Enderby should go. It seemed to be a soft-drink stall, one of many set all about the square. He shooed Enderby out. Enderby got out, bag on arm, groaning. The driver did an urgent and insolent turn, butting bare shins with deformed fenders and, cursed at by some but greeted toothily and, Enderby presumed, with ribaldry by others, probed the crammed barefoot alley whence he had come. He honked slowly among thudded drums and weak pipe-skirls, fowl-squawks and ass-brays, then was smothered by nightshirts and most animated robes, pushing his way back to a world where an airport, complete with waiting Miss Boland, might be possible. Enderby encountered blind men howling for baksheesh. He brutally ignored them and made his shoes pick their way among great splay brown feet towards this soft-drink stall that had been thumbed at him. He would have a soft drink, anyway. No harm in that. And that climbed hill of an act would show the next one. But just by the stall, newly disclosed by a small mob that came away chewing things, probably nasty, he saw a patriarch tending a small fire. A little boy, his head shaven as for ringworm, was threading rubbery gobs of what Enderby took to be goat meat on to skewers. Enderby nodded in awed satisfaction. His imagination had not failed him, then. It was time to get rid of that passport.
He stood by the fire, the passport in his hands open, mumbling to himself the liturgy of its shards of autobiography. There were still so many blank pages of travelling Enderby to be filled, and they would not now be filled. He must appear, he thought, like some Zoroastrian missionary to these who skirted him warily in robes and yashmaks: murmuring a late afternoon office to the fire. And then, as he prepared to drop the well-bound document in, the act was, as by an Oriental miracle, arrested. A bony tanned wrist gripped his chubbier whiter one, pulled, saved. Enderby looked from wrist to shoulder, meekly surprised. Then up to face above that. A white man, though brown. Lined, crafty, the eyes blue but punished. The straight hair as though bleached.
"I was," said Enderby with care, "just getting rid of it. No further use, if you catch my meaning."
"You cracked? You skirted? You got the big drop on? Grandmother of Jesus, I never seen." The man was not old. His accent and vernacular were hard to place. It was a sort of British colonial English. One hand still gripped Enderby's wrist; the other hand snatched the passport. The man then let go of Enderby and began to pant over the passport as if it were a small erotic book. "Holy consecrated grandad of Christ Jesus Amen," he said. "And this is you too on it and the whole thing donk and not one little bit gritty. The genuine, and you ready to ash it up. If you don't want it, others as do. A right donk passy. Feel his uncle, O bastard daughters of Jerusalem."
Enderby almost smiled, then felt cunning creeping along his arteries. "I tried to sell it," he said. "But I could find no buyers. All I wanted was a trip to Tangier. No money, you see. Or not very much."
"You better come over," said the man. "Ariff's got a swizer of that-there at the back." And he led Enderby across to the very soft-drink stall that had been thumbed to him by that driver.
"Funny," Enderby said. This man who brought me wanted me to wait there or something. I wondered what for."
"Who? One of the cab-nogs? Ahmed, was it?"
"Don't know his name," said Enderby. "But I told him I had to get away."
"You on the out, then? How did he know it was tonight? Some shitsack's been on the jabber." He mumbled strange oaths to himself as he led Enderby over. The drink-stall was a square wooden structure covered in striped canvas. There was a counter with cloudy glasses and bottles of highly coloured liquids. There were oil-lamps, blind at the moment, since the sun had not yet gone down. A few Moors or Berbers or something were downing some sticky yellow horror. Behind the counter stood a lithe brown man in an undervest, snakes of veins embossed on his arms. Crinkled hair rayed out, as in shock, all over his bullet-head. "Right," said this British colonial man, "swing us two bulgies of arry-arry."
"Where do you come from?" asked Enderby. "I can't quite place the accent. No offence," he added hurriedly.
"None took. Name of Easy Walker. Call me Easy. Your name I know but I won't blart it. Never know who's flapping. Well now, you'll have heard of West Rothgar in New Sunderland. Fifty or so miles from the capital, boojie little rathole. Had to blow, see the great wide open. And that. And other things." As if to symbolise the other things, he stretched his left mouth-corner, as also the left tendon of his neck, and held the pose tremulously. This, Enderby seemed to remember, was known as the ki-yike. Easy Walker then scratched his right ear with Enderby's passport and said: "You sound to me like from back." Enderby stared. Easy Walker snarled a full set in impatience. "Great Dirty Mum," he explained. "How shall we extol thee?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Who were born of thee," danced Easy Walker. "Here it is, then. Down the upbum or," he said, in a finicking uncolonial accent, "the superior arsehole." There were on the counter two tumblers of what looked like oily water. Easy Walker seemed to wrap his lips round the glass-rim and, with a finger-thud on the glass-bottom, drive the substance down as though it were corned beef hard to prise from its container. He smacked in loving relish. Enderby tasted what tasted of aniseed, lubricator, meths and the medicinal root his stepmother had called ikey-pikey. "Similar," Easy Walker told the barman. "And now," to Enderby, "what's on? Why you on the out, brad?"
"You can't really say 'similar' if it's the same again you want. 'Similar' means something different. Oh, as for that," Enderby recalled himself from pedantry that reminded him poignantly of those good seaside days among the decrepit, "it's partly a matter of a woman."
"Ark." Easy Walker was not impressed.
"And," Enderby bid further, "the police are after me for suspected murder of a pop-star."
"You do it?"
"Well," said Enderby, "I had the means and the motive. But I want to get to Tangier to see off an old enemy. Time is of the essence."
This seemed reasonable to Easy Walker. He said: "See that. Right right. Gobblers watching at the airport and on the shemmy. Clever bastard that cab-nog, then. Ahmed, must have been. Well," he said, fanning Enderby with Enderby's passport, "give me this and you can come on the lemon-pip by the long road. Fix you up in Tangey up the hill. No questions, get it? The gobblers leave it strictly on the old antonio. Wash me ends, though. Right up to you, brad. Never clapped mincers on you, get it?"
"Oh, yes," Enderby said. "Thank you very much. But," he added, "what are you on then, eh?"
"Well," said Easy Walker, rolling his refilled tumbler. "It's mostly Yank camps, junkies, had-no-lucks. See what I mean?"
"American troops in Morocco?" Enderby asked.
"Riddled," said Easy Walker. "All off the main, though. Forts, you could call them. Very hush. Moscow gold in Nigeria I mean Algeria. PX stuff-fridges mainly-for Casablanca and Tangey. That's why I've got this three-ton."
"A lorry? Where?"
"Up the road. Never you mind."
"But," said Enderby with care, "what are you doing here then?"
"Well that's the real soft centre," Easy Walker said. "See these niggers here? Not the Marockers, more brown they are than the others, the others being from more like real blackland."
"The heart of darkness," said Enderby.
"Call it what you like, brad. Berbers or Barbars. Barbar black shit but no offence is what I tell them. They bring the stuff up with them for this here racketytoo."
"What stuff? What is all this, anyway?"
"Everything," said Easy Walker, with sudden lucidity, "the heart of darkness could desire. Tales of Ali Baba and Sinbad the whatnot, and snake-charmers and all. Suffering arsehole of T Collins, the sprids they get up to in this lot. Hear them drums?"
"Go on," said Enderby.
Easy Walker did a mime of sucking in dangerous smoke and then staggered against the flimsy counter. The barman was lifting the lamps. "Pounds and pounds of it, brad. I'm like telling you thus because you won't gob. Daren't, more like, in your state of you-know-what. They grind up the seeds and nuts and it burns cold, real cold, like sucking ice-lollies. The Yank junks go bonko for it."
"Drug addicts," questioned Enderby, "in army camps?"
"Drag too," said Easy Walker calmly. "Human like you and I arent they? Loving Aunt Flo of our bleeding Saviour, ain't you seen the world? What you on normal, brad? What you do?"
"I," said Enderby, "am a poet. I am Enderby the poet."
"Poetry. You know the poetry of Arthur Sugden, called Ricker bugden because he played on the old rickers?"
"I don't think so," said Enderby.
"I know him all off. You can have the whole sewn-up boogong tonight on the road."
"Thank you very much," Enderby said. "What time do we start?"
"Moon-up. Crounch first. You crounch with me. Little stoshny I got up this street of a thousand arseholes. Up above Hassan the hundred delights. Know what those are? Glycerine like toffees with popseeds, stickjaw that'll stick to your jaw, shishcakes and marhum. And I mean a thousand arseholes. Not my creed. Yours?"
"I don't like anything any more," Enderby said. "I just want to get on with the job."
"Right, too. Ah, here comes the old jalooty." A sly black man came in. He grinned first then peered behind as though he feared he was being followed. He had a woolly cap on, a knee-length clout done up like a diaper, a stiff embroidered coat with food stains on it. He carried a grey darned gunnysack. Easy Walker tucked away Enderby's passport in the breast-pocket of his shirt, then from the back-pocket of his long but creaseless canvas trousers he pulled out a wallet. "This," he told Enderby, "is as it might be like my agent. Abu." The black man responded to his name with a kind of salivation. "Mazooma for pozzy, as my dad used to say. Died at Gallipoli, poor old reticule. It's my Aunt Polly as told me he used to say that. Never clapped mincers on him myself. Abu grabs what per cent he has a fishhook on. Leave it to him." To this Abu Easy Walker told out what appeared to Enderby to be no more than fifty dirhams. Then he took the gunnysack and shushed Abu off like a fly. "Now then," he said, his hand on Enderby's arm, leading him out to the flared and oil-lamped sinister gaiety of the evening, "time for the old couscous. You like couscous?"
"Never had it," said Enderby.
"The best one of Ricker Sugden's," said Easy Walker, as they walked among baskets and moonfruit in the reek of lights, "is The Song of the Dunnygasper." You not know that one, brad?"
"What," asked Enderby, "is a dunnygasper?" A youngish woman raised her yashmak and spat a fair gob among chicken-innards. Two children, one with no left leg, punched each other bitterly.
"A dunnygasper is a bert that cleans out a dunny. Now, the pongalorum of a dunny is that bad that you'd lay out a yard in full view if you drew it in in the way of normality. So he has to like under water hold his zook shut then surface for a gasp. You see that then?" An old man with a bashed-in turban tottered by, crying some prayer to the enskied archangels of Islam. Easy Walker started to recite:
"Gasping in the dunny in the dead of dark,
I dream of my boola-bush, sunning in the south,
And the scriking of the ballbird and Mitcham's lark,
And bags of the sugarwasp, sweet in my mouth."
"That's not bad," said Enderby. "Not much meaning, though." Meaning? Too much meaning in your poetry, Enderby. Arch-devil of the maceration of good art for pop-art. Kill, kill, kill. He could be calm at soul, whatever justice said.
"For here in the city is the dalth of coves,
Their stuff and their slart and the fell of sin,
The beerlout's spew where the nightmort roves
And the festered craw of the filth within."
A moustached man, the veins of his head visible under a dark nap, called hoarsely at Enderby and, with flapping hands, showed small boys in little shirts lined up behind the lamp in his shop-front. A woman squatted on a step and scooped with a wooden spatula the scum from a seething pot on a pungent wood-fire.
"That drink," belched Enderby, "whatever it was, was not a good idea."
"Feel like a sack of tabbies when you've gooled up a pompey of couscous." Graaarch, went Enderby. Perfwhitt.
"God's own grass for this porrow in my pail,
Surrawa's lake for this puke and niff,
Prettytit's chirp for the plonky's nipper's wail,
And the rawgreen growler under Bellamy's Cliff."
"Rawcliffe," growled green Enderby. "It won't (errrrgh) be long now."
Easy Walker stopped in his tracks. A beggar clawed at him and he cleaned the beggar off his shirt like tobacco ash. "You say Rawcliffe, brad? Rawcliffe the jarvey you bid to chop?"
"Plagiarist, traitor (orrrph), enemy."
"Runs a little beacho. Called the Acantilado something-or-the-
next-thing. Not far from the Rif. Not there now, though. Very crookidy. Quacks pawing him all over on the Rock."
"In Gibraltar? Rawcliffe? Ill?"
"Crookidy dock. He'll be back, though. Says if he's going to snuff he'll snuff in his own dung."
"Rawcliffe," said Enderby, "is (orrrfff) for me."
"We're there," said Easy Walker. "Up that rickety ladder. Niff that juicy couscous. Yummiyum. Then we hit it. Moon's up, shufti." Enderby saw it with bitterness. Miss Boland seemed to rage down from it.
"This jarvey Rawcliffe," said Easy Walker, leading the way up the ladder, "is some kind of a big jarvey. Big in films and that. You sure you know what you're on, brad?"
"I (arrrrp) know," said Enderby, following him up. A fresh beggar, wall-eyed, embraced his left leg passionately, shrieking for alms. Enderby kicked him off.