Papu's Deception

excerpted from the novella The Third Eye of the Needle

(for an earlier installment, visit Vol III Issue 3/4)

The day before they were scheduled to leave Papu and Eponine took a taxi to the summit of Mount Royal Park, which is right in the center of the city and overlooks downtown Montreal from several hundred meters above. The effect of seeing the city with its glittering modernistic architecture, with the mighty, wide St. Lawrence River in the background was like seeing a miniature scale model of a city in a museum — it had an unreal quality of artificiality about it.

The intimacy of marriage between Eponine and Papu had made them more equal, though she still perceived him as a person of overwhelming personal authority and he still perceived her as an ethereal presence who might escape his grasp at any time.

Looking out over the city, Papu said, dreamily, "If you look far enough into the horizon, you can see the mountains of Vermont in your country. See? Over there."

He pointed. "Whenever I come to Montreal, I come up here to see America.

"From here I can sometimes feel as though I know how William the Conqueror felt looking across the English Channel in the eleventh century, dreaming of conquest."

"You want to conquer America, Papu?"

"Only in the cinematic sense, of course. It's not as simple as you might suppose, to discern the taste of your people. The Japanese have tried, the French. None have succeeded.

"In any other country you go in, you take a partner and you make business. With Hollywood - it's a snake pit more incomprehensible than the Forbidden City of China. Everybody smiles and confides in you how well you are going to do. They seduce you with big parties and beautiful women, and the whole time they are picking your pocket. Finally you are so desperate to stem your losses you sell out at any price — to the same people who have stealing from you all along.

"But there's no alternative. I can't make movies in Bombay to sell to Americans. If you want to sell there, you have to work there."

Eponine said, "Maybe you should just be happy to be the king of Asia."

Papu turned to Eponine. "What is a king without a successor? I need a prince to inherit my dynasty. Eponine, we have had a long honeymoon, but now is the time to consider the prospect of creating an heir."

Tears welled up in Eponine's eyes. "Are you sure you want to try? I warned you when you proposed to me that an attempt to create a child could have tragic consequences."

Papu said, "I feel confident that if we proceed deliberately, we can succeed."


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