from The Book of Dave, Will Self

When Symun Dévúsh had been a little boy, his mummy, Effi, often came to him and took him from his moto. She led him away so it was just the two of them, all snugglewise and cuddleup. The other mummies thought this strange - and said so - but Effi was their knee woman and a rapper like her mummy Sharun before her. Drivers came and went while the knee woman remained, a power to be reckoned with on the island of Ham. Effi told little Symun the old legends of Ham, from before the Breakup and the Book that had ordained it, legends that, she maintained, went back to the MadeinChina, when the world had been created out of the maelstrom.

Am iz shaypd lyke a feetus, she intoned, coz í iz 1. According to Effi, Ham was the aborted child of the Mutha, an ancient warrior queen of the giants, who leaped from island to island across the archipelago of Ing, pursued by her treacherous enemies. Fearing herself about to be caught, the Mutha sucked seawater into her vagina as an abortifacient, then squatted in the Great Lagoon and voided herself of Ham. When her pursuers saw the foetus, they were terrified, because it was an abomination - part moto and part human - and so they fled. The Mutha stayed and revived the corpse of her child, revived it so successfully that it grew and grew until it became an island. And on this island a second race of smaller giants sprang up, who, over years, then decades and finally centuries, gradually separated themselves into the two species of men and motos. I woz so slo, Effi said, vat vares awlways a bì uv moto inna Amster, anna bì uv Amster inna moto. Together they cultivated Ham, establishing the fields for wheatie and the orchards for fruit, the woodlands for moto foraging and the saltings for samphire. These giants were prodigious climbers - for at that time there were many more stacks in the Great Lagoon and they were far higher. The islanders of Ham were thus rich in seafowl and moto oil, and their home was a veritable Arcadia. The giants used brick, crete and yok from the Zönes to build their castles, the five towers, which guarded the island from covetous invaders. They also built the groynes to protect Ham's coastline from the eroding sea. They planted the blisterweed that grew along the shoreline. An vay uzed vair bare bludde ands 2 do i, Effi said, closing her own bony fist and shaking it in front of the little boy's wondering eyes. Vay wur vat bludde strong an ard.

Sadly, with each successive generation the giants grew smaller in stature, their arts declined, and their ambitions shrank. Where once they had been frantic rappers, spinning word pictures of great solidity and duration out of the island's mist, now all poetry deserted them. Where once they could lift huge rocks and uproot mighty trees, now they could barely summon the strength to cultivate their meagre fields. They became subjects of the island - rather than its lawds and luvvies. In time the Lawyer of Chil's Hack came among them, supplanting their native mushers and replacing them with the Drivers of the PCO, brought from London in the far north.

The mushers had been ordinary Hamsters - dads with kiddies of their own. The Drivers were queers - men who had no desire to father children. Such a strange inclination, which, if known at all on Ham, was suppressed, made these davines still more alien and imposing to the simple peasants.

If little Sy was disposed to give any credence to his mother's tales, then it was only a semi-belief. For every fourth day Changeover would come, and he'd be sent across the stream with his cousins to stop at the daddies' gaffs. Here a rigid Davinanity held sway: the runs and the points were ceaselessly called over whenever the dads were not at work or amusing themselves with the opares. For little Symun - as much as for the other kids, who were not so exposed to the ancient lore - their mummies' influence was eclipsed entirely. It was as if when they were with their daddies the kids were other people altogether, with different natures, different likes, different fares even. Yet none more so than Symun, because, while the other kids ran to their daddies at Changeover, he had no dad of his own. Peet Dévúsh had fallen from the Sentrul Stac to his death before his only son was born, so Symun was the lad of all the dads, making him still more of a daddies' boy when he was under their care and control.

Although the last Driver to be dropped off on Ham had been picked up five years before Symun was born, his influence remained strong among the dads. The most davine among them would not talk or look at the womenfolk, and avowed that they did not even recognize the mummies of their own kids. Had these fanatics prevailed, they would have wrapped all the mummies up in their cloakyfings from top to toe. If the dads were to be believed especially the two or three of them who could read - the Book was all the understanding any Hamster needed of anything. The Book stood outside of the seasons and of the years. What Dave had described he had also foretold, and what he had seen in his own era would come again - for it had never truly gone. Dave's New London was all around them, trapped in the Zönes and the reef, a hidden yet still tangible world. Just as the roots of the herb pile wort resembled piles and so were good for the treatment of this malady, so the Daveworks were tiny pictures and fragmented legends of a transcendent city of Dave - Dave the Dad and Carl the Lost Boy that had been deposited there, by Dave, at the MadeinChina. The problem for the Hamsters was not to build a New London but only to prove themselves worthy of realizing it by their Knowledge.

In the time of the last Driver all Daveworks had been rejected as toyist, and the practice of garlanding the gaffs, wayside shrines, the island's pedalo - and indeed themselves - with the plastic amulets had been forbidden. The mummies - who were, of course, denied the rituals of the Shelter - continued to believe in the ancient lore. Their Knowledge was of the Mutha, not Chelle, and of the lost Ham, rather than the Lost Boy. Denied their kids for half of each blob, they cleaved to the motos, and they looked to the knee woman and her anointing for their absolution.

As the years passed the less davine of the dads allowed their faith, once more, to become softened by their temperate and isolate home. Even the Guvnor, Dave Brudi, began to speculate on such things. In his own youth he had travelled to Chil, and he told Symun that the giants' ruins were greater in their density here on Ham than in any other part of Ing; and, try as he might, he could not help but give credence to the legend that this was because the Book had been found, as he put it, ri ear on Am.

Symun Dévúsh grew to dadhood. He was a charismatic young bloke, attractive to both sexes - taller than his peers, finer boned, more open of countenance. His fingers were quick and dextrous, his eyes blue and dancing. His light beard was golden and curly, while the Hamsters' barnets were mostly a lank, dun brown. If there had been any reflective surface on Ham besides still water and dull irony, Symun might have been vain; as it was, he was aware of his appeal to others, without knowing precisely what it consisted of. Although he was popular with his posse and a good holder of the Book, there could never be any question of Symun reaching the first cab of the Shelter. He was an orphan, his mummy the knee woman. This meant that, unlike his best mate, Fred Ridmun, he was destined to be always a waver-upper, never the fare.

The autumn he and Fred turned fourteen, the two lads changed over for the last time and took their permanent place in the dads' gaffs. Then a peculiar thing happened to Sy. While he was still growing up he had never thought to question any of the kids about what they felt at Changeover - mummytime was for mummies, daddytime for daddies. He knew that, like him, they left their mummyselves on the east bank of the stream and that even their most recent memories of cuddleup and snuggledown were as half-remembered dreams.

Yet, when he changed over for the last time Symun Deviish took his mummyself with him - not entire but enough of it for him to feel marked out from the other Hamstermen. Unlike Fred, Sy couldn't prevent himself from looking at the mummies and kids when he saw them together - he even had eyes for the old boilers. Fred noticed it and teased him, saying, If U wanna lookit byrds, vares plenny uv opares on vis syde uv ve streem. Although Sy became more circumspect, Effi noticed his gaze as well, and when she returned it, Sy saw in turn that she knew what had happened, she understood what she had done by seeding his fertile imagination with such potent lore. She smiled at him often and strangely. However, he couldn't detect much love in these smiles, only fear.

Self, Will. The Book of Dave: A Novel. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
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