For the past three years one of the closest companions of Adrian
Verrall was a
large azure coloured sphere who liked to hop up and down merrily and
appeared one bright summermorning in
"Because I feel guilty over Soviet atrocities."
"In what way?"
"Well for a start I feel guilty because I know so few Soviet atrocities that I keep using Katyn. I probably spell it because it has only five letters, and I'd faint before I could spell out all of the words that GULAG stands for. I mean this is embarrassing: I can probably name a dozen Nazi concentration camps, but after `Koloyoma' everything's a blank."
"What do you think you should do about this? And incidentally,
"Do you remember that scene in Gandhi,"--the ball didn't, it rarely had the opportunity to go out to the movies--"where a fasting Gandhi tells a Hindu rioter who has murdered a Muslim child that he can still achieve salvation. All he has to do is to take a Muslim orphan and raises him as a Muslim. Well, I think if I ran a lot of good reviews of Robert Conquest, something similar would happen to me."
"Do you like Robert Conquest?"
"I think he's a mediocre poet, that he's posturing and self-serving and just a bit fashionably paranoid, and there are serious questions on whether he knows how to count. Still, I suppose Czeslaw Milosz wouldn't say he was such a wonderful person if he was only in it for the money."
"Who is Robert Conquest anyway?" asked the ball happily.
"Robert Conquest. British citizen. Former member of British intelligence, propaganda, I think, but I may be wrong. Sender of pornographic magazines through the mails to his friendthe late Philip Larkin. Translator of Solzhenitsyn's Prussian Nights, author of a The Great Terror, a respected work on the Great Purges, author of The Harvest of Sorrow, a slightly less respected work on the famines of Collectivization, author of about twelve other books on Soviet atrocities, and co-writer of a book called What to do when the Russians come."
"Oh. What do you do when the Russian come?"
"I don't know, but I strongly suspect that 'Wake Up' isn't the first thing, and 'Stop taking hallucinogenic mushrooms' isn't the second. That's Robert Conquest for you, writer of twodozen books on Communist crimes, of which I have not read a single sentence."
The ball paused, and simply bounced up and down for a minute. Then it spoke. "Well, if I just popped over to Robert Conquest's and said how very sorry you were, I'm sure he'd be anice chap and tell you not to worry so much."
"No. Does he lives far away?"
"He probably lives across the
"Which is what?"
"Ummm, I don't think you can find Robert Conquest. Ummm, he's kind of unavailable at this time of night."
"I'll just ask someone else then, and you'll all be forgiven."
"I don't believe I can be forgiven. It's part of my complacently decadent Anglican past."
"Nonsense, everyone can be forgiven."
"I don't have the right to be forgiven. Everything I've done is full of bad faith. I deserve to be vomited on for the rest of eternity, which is probably what is going to happen tome, so I better get used to it." But the ball had already vanished and reappeared in the home of Vivian Chelmnickon, who, alas, was out for the evening. His wife was there, but she was in a drunken stupor, which did not prevent the ball from singing "When the Saints come Marching In" for fifteen minutes in a pleasantly futile attempt to get her to wake up.
Chelmnickon was walking down the stairs followed by a man whom
Corpse wondered for a second. "Well, it sounds better than my recent dreams."
"Really? Have you been having nightmares Oliver?"
"No, something more dangerous. Teschen and
"Oh." and Chelmnickon immediately changed the subject. "I
see the local left groups are complaining about the Intafada
same old shallow crap as usual. Did I ever tell youabout the time
"Oh hello, Rudman. Were you going to say something?"
Everyone who knew Adrian Verrall closely knew that he was a shy,
person capable of great empathy. When
But despite his empathy
The only woman who wasn't thoroughly pissed off by
There was no doubt that she possessed creativity, charm and wit. As a child she had written songs like "I saw my Mommy giving Santa the Heimlich manoeuver," "(Dangling)Midge overTroubled Waters," "The Star Spangled Spanner" and "God Save our Spleen." She had written skits with titles like "Long Night's Journey into the Next Morning and the Following Afternoon,"complete with alexandrine septameter and a host of showgirls; "The Penthouse of the Western World," which could only be performed if all the female parts were played by adolescent boysin drag; "The Heart of a Frog," a story combining a shocking expose of totalitarianism with popular characters from a well-admired children's show; "Rosie Krantz and Gilda Stern are in Bed" which was an example of performance art where two girls in decent lingerie tried to read as much Hamlet as they could while the other one was tickling her: "Waiting for God" in which the Lord and all his Hosts came down upon the stage and told Estragon he could really use a bath, and finally "Look! Back there's Unger!" a fine example of kitchen-sink drama which ended with the stage being flooded with soap and hot water. She wondered whether you could turn "Troilus and Cressida" into pornography, and then wondered whether you could turn pornography into "Troilus and Cressida." She thought that you could pull it off if you used blackmail, cocaine and acts of parliament, but then got bored with the idea when she realized she actually had to read the play first.
Lucian had been so attracted to
But that was four days in the future, not the Friday evening which is
Lucian was still acting this screen out as the three of them walked
Elizabeth Concrete's apartment. She darted furtively across the
frozen ice, snuck down low beside parked cars, and looked for special
by the lampposts. "Halt!" she said to her brother.
"Do you see over there that foul assassin of fair Mettenrich?"
She pointed into the distance for emphasis.
"You deserved that, foul miscreant! You, who would dare to slash
throat of that Valiant Viscount, Lord Castlereagh. You Irish
Your pre-modern radical chic!" Then Lucian dropped very low and
dashed over to a garbage dumpster. Hiding behind it, she summoned
"Sucker!" and she threw a cunningly concealed snowball into
"Guys, I saw this really neat thing up there in the sky."
"The stars I saw when you pushed me into the snowbank?"
"No, guys, it was something else. It was this strange thing, it was beautiful, kind of transcendent, it was, it was...vaguely rectangular."
"Yeah. Vaguely rectangular. But with wings. And arms.
And possibly a head as well. Wearing a sort of lingerie, like the
"You mean like an angel?" asked
"Yes. Like an angel. For a few seconds I saw this big rectangular block floating up in the sky, and then it started to raise it wings up and for one instant the moonlight shone on it so bright, that all the sky was filled with the light of the wings. It was stunning."
"You're pulling our legs, aren't you Lucian?" said
"Huh. Oh yeah. Sure. Of course. Of course, I'm pulling you guys legs. Sucker! I mean what the hell is an angel doing floating up in the sky near the end of November. Perhaps it's here for Ramadan, but it got its appointment book mixed up. Come on, lets get over to Chuck's."
The three got over there quickly, and as Charles Harding opened the door to Vanessa Wilentz's and Elizabeth Concrete's apartment, Constantine reflected on seeing him that it was times like this that he wished he was homosexual. He felt that a passion completely incapable of being fulfilled would be morally superior than the thoughts of petty envy and spite he held against Charles and the extraordinarily beautiful young woman that he was holding in his right arm.
"Hi-Ya Chuck." said Lucian, and she pulled out another cunningly
container and gave it to
"What's that?" queried
"It's the food that we're supposed to bring to the party."
"I didn't know we were supposed to bring any food."
"Well now you know you were, and don't you feel like chumps for not
"Pepper surprise." said Lucian, and
But as for the bookcase, ah! It was a genuine antique, made of
but coated with brown-black varnish, and having a special panel setting
the British victory in theBoer war and the simultaneous coronation of
VII. It was the last thing that Daniel Raymond had bought before
and he specifically bought it for the five year old child he
assumed to be his grandchild. It had taken quite a long time for
Concrete to fill it with books, since she wasn't really "a book
person." And when Elizabeth Concrete first came to Carleton
for graduate study the shelves which had once been stuffed with
comics and an unopened copy of The Screwtape Letters, were now filled
horror novels and cheap romances composed of equal parts
and sex. But now the bookcase had a far more respectable line of
books. Trying to look around a rather sour Vanessa,
"Well don't feel too depressed. She hasn't read most of it either." And with one bold movement Vanessa swallowed the entire contents of her glass down in one gulp, a task made considerably easier as she had only filled the glass quarter-way in the first place.
"Isn't it odd that with all these female writers there isn't anything by Virginia Woolf here?"
"Oh, do you like Virginia Woolf?" asked Vanessa.
"Not really. I've only read To the Lighthouse and I found it hopelessly confusing."
"Well, if you did like her, you could have read some of mine."
"What is it?"
"It's an heirloom from my father."
"Then what's it doing here in your girlfriend's apartment?"
"My father let me borrow it. It originally came from Czarist Russia. Don't you admire the craftsmanship?"
"Well yes, but I don't see what you need this box here for."
"I'm going to be giving
"Yes, you did." said Charles coldly. "You saw it last
Thursday, when you kicked me in the shins for no reason at all." That
enough to cool Vanessa's curiosity while Charles placed the box
"Don't worry. It's only fertilizer."
"Why is fertilizer dripping from your roof?"
"It isn't. It just falls from the holes made in the floor by the people who live above me."
"Why are they putting fertilizer in their floors?"
"So they can grow Marigolds in their carpets."
"Don't worry about it. The woman who lives above me is completely crazy. She lives with a Siamese maid and every now and then she raises a lot of noise. She's actually well-behaved tonight. The only thing she's done today was to throw an official from the Thai embassy down a flight of stairs for visiting the maid too often."
"How very strange." and then
"Why do you say that? Have you seen it substantially more often in the library of male college students?"
"Then don't make stupid assertions about what you don't know about."
"All political correctness aside, why do you have it?"
"My uncle gave it to me as a Purim gift. He told me I wasn't mature enough for Adorno."
"Oh, have you read any of it?"
"I'm sorry, it's just that a collection of essays on German intellectuals isn't normal light bedside reading. What parts have you read?"
"I've read the first essay. And I've read the two essays that criticize Arnold Toynbee. I've always wondered what was so special about him, and now I can say that there's nothing specialabout him at all."
"It's useful to know these things, but Toynbee's been dead so long, nobody cares. Killing old middlebrows is an unappreciated business. You can use chainsaws, or multiple stilettos, or subtly understated ways involving strychnine, but nobody gives a damn. "
"I also read the essay on the Hegel myth, so when Pr. Chelmnickon gets really annoying, I can tell him what a prat Sir Karl Popper was. Poppercorn, as it were."
"Yes, I noticed you shouting at him last Friday."
"Yes, I noticed you turning white as a sheet when I did so."
"I find it so difficult to confront him."
"Why? He's just a man. Nothing more."
"Considering what he's been through, I feel it would be out of place to make petty criticisms."
"Well my parents have been through far worse." She paused, considered her thoughts, and looked at her pillow blankly for a moment. "I suppose it's nice to have a convenient genocide in the family to buck up your spine for cases like this. If I drove a car, maybe I could use it to avoid traffic tickets. Anyway it doesn't stop my brother from whining about my parents whenever we meet. I don't have to worry about it."
"Read any of the other essays?"
"Not really. I've skinned through some, but I've never gotten around to looking at the one about Rilke."
"What's this book here for?"
"Oh, my brother gave it to me. He's an accountant. Personally I think Hayek's a crock of shit, but I don't dare throw it out. I tried getting rid of a copy of Menachem Begin's memoirs--the bleach was fouling up the whole apartment --but when Peter came by a few days later and noticed it was gone, he wasted everyone's time pretending to have a heart attack. Could you put it back before everyone else notices the smell."
"Why does it smell of bleach?"
"It's just my brother. He's completely anal."
At the same time just nearby
Lucian just happened to catch the tailend of this conversation. "Oh, actually the solution is very simple and quite elegant. Supposing there were nine women to the man. That means a man who would have nine times as many children as a woman. Anyone who had a genetic factor favoring the production of male offspirng rather than female ones would be likely to have much more descendants. As the descendants increased, the proportion of women would decline, until the factor spread through the entire population and the sexes were equal."
Elizabeth nodded and said That's Quite Fascinating in her most charming
euphonious voice and You Sure Know a Lot about Biology while her
and bewitching eyes clearly toldLucian to Get Lost. And even
"Do you like reading fiction?" asked Vanessa.
"I wish I liked it more. It's a lot more interesting than Mathematics. I've spent eight years studying mathematics, and it's incredibly boring."
"Why do you study it then?"
"Partly out of frustration, really. When me and Charles were children he was better than me at practically everything. The only area where I was substantially superior was math, because Charles didn't care enough to make the effort. And I found it so easy, and it took so little of my time, that Ithought studying it and getting a doctorate would ensure me of a reasonably high-paying position."
"But you don't really like it."
"Not at all. What I wanted to do as a boy was to write stories, but I could never get around to putting them on paper. I tried writing a few of them one summer a couple of years ago, but they all failed. Everything was violent and cruel, with fashionable mutilations. Or else I was trying to be like some incredibly great writer, like James for instance, and I would try to be very clever and subtle, but instead just turned out to be obscure and pompous. And I could never get dialogue right, and my sentences would be awkward, and basically I just didn't have any experience on the subjects I wanted to write about."
"What do you want to write about?"
"Oh, the obvious things. Fantasy, betrayal, death, totalitarianism, conspiracy. Nothing real, of course. I have a few friends, but people write about their circle of friends all the time. And they never say anything interesting. Who reads 'The Group' nowadays? I don't."
"Perhaps you lack seriousness. One of things I believe is that to be a great writer you need some sort of intensity, some sort of definite direction on one emotion or another. Do youunderstand what I'm saying?"
"One one level, yes, it's excessively simple. On a practical level, no, not exactly, no. I need an example."
"Well most fiction is just trash generated for profit. People think up situations that aren't real to them, like stupid cowboys or murder mysteries, or exotic romances, or strange aliens, or horrible ghosts, and they manipulate them to appeal to the reader's most obvoius fantasies. But the authors have no real interest in the characters or their plots. That's the most obvious kind of shallowness. But when you look at more serious writers, you sometimes see a sort of meretriciousness, a failure to look beyond the superficial and the incongruous. Too often they only write puzzles and games for their own interest."
"Quite. Now this great city was so advanced that its highest science was the study of immortality, and that's where the story really started to go wrong. I mean if you write aboutimmortality, obviously you're not writing from personal experience and more likely than not you're just parodying the whole bloody idea. So for about thirty pages groups of wackos went around barbarically torturing people to get information about immortality which was, of course, completely worthless, until the assorted factions destroyed the entire city. Cheap and petty anti-clericalism."
"Was there nothing good about the story?"
"Oh, there were some interesting factions I thought up. There were the Tannhauserites, who locked people up in caves so that they could encounter Greek gods and goddesses, and actuallymanaged to talk 147 times with Mundania, the goddess of double-entry accounting. And there were the Hannibalities, who believed that only Mastodons were immortal, so they tried usinggenetic engineering to turn people into elephants, and had some success in creating some short-lived rhinoceroses. And there were the Deathists, who mostly used the power of death to killpeople, but some of them thought that the death-force might make a good pet, so I had scholars walking down streets with large black cold cubes of death on a leash, and saying 'I'm just taking my death out for a walk.'"
Vanessa laid back on the bed, and
"I also wrote some other stories. When I was just a teenager I wrote a story about Uruguay."
"Oh, because it had a horrible and brutal dictatorship at the time; it was once a Switzerland-like place but now it was being punished for having generous pensions and for not giving V.S. Naipaul the Nobel Prize in Literature. Anyway, the story was all about a lost treasure on an island tower off the Angolan coast, revealed by a sort of angel called a Xavier. When I first met Elizabeth, and laterCharles, I sort of revised it in an way that was unflattering to myself. I had a sort of female librarian, who was sexually repressed, and who kept getting strange letters. She came to this tower, and she has sex with this nice colleague of his, and then she is symbolically stabbed, while the colleague is actually stabbed. Some other characters are brutally disposed of, and the Xavier explodes into flames and the woman is trapped on the island. It never really worked, because I wasn't sure about the symbolism of the librarian's sexuality, so everything just went 'boom' at the end of the story."
Constantine ruminated on all this. "I have an idea for a story, but it's so difficult to get everything started. It's sort of a children's story; it begins like this.
"Once upon a time, there a little town far away from every city and state, where everything could have been kind, loving, and beautiful. But that was not to be. It had not existed forever, but for as long as the people could remember, there was a vast grove of thorns that surrounded the town. The thorns were as sharp as razors, and their twistings and convolutions could somehow grasp and smother people who came too close. Every day the grove grew larger across the countryside, rose higher into the air and bore deeper into the ground."
Constantine stopped. "Go on," said Vanessa.
"I can't. I haven't a clue on what should follow this."
Vanessa sat up and considered the matter for a second. "As the grove grew larger and more threatening, some of the villagers would form groups and go out to destroy the thorns. They wouldgo out with axes and swords and caustics and fires to smash the thorns root and branch. And they would spend days, weeks, months without resting, without sleeping, not even daring to eat, because the grove could grow from any sort of nourishment. For the slightest nourishment made the thorns stronger than before, though by far the most effective nourishment was the humanblood that dropped on the ground as the townspeople cut themselves. And finally whole swatches would be cut, would be burned away, would be destroyed with acid, and for a few weeksthe grove would die down and sort of wither into dust. But only to return, as the thorns grew from special dark damp places within the earth, as nastier, more subtle, and more dangerous weeds grew, while even the destroyed and cut away ruins seemed to regain their vitality and grow back into the earth."
She paused. "Your turn."
Constantine took a deep breath and started to pace. "The villagers did not stop their efforts to destroy the grove of thorns. Instead they would use all the fruits and plants in the countryside to make more potent and deadly weedkillers. They used the berries of mistletoe and the leaves of nightshade to make pies out of deadly toadstools, and they mixed it with lime and potash to make a poison that would destroy the grove of thorns. They worked long and they worked hard, and they made so many experiments that a noxious smell started to descend over all the village, causing little children to cry, making expectant mothers cough and spit, and ensuring that everyone's skin woulditch and bleed. And after many futile experiments and after many good people had been fatally poisoned with the new noxious chemical, the townspeople were ready to use it to attack the grove of thorns. One fine sunny day the men rolled barrels and vats of the noxious substance to the grove and with confidence and vigor they splashed the fatal substance all over the ground. When the poison sank into the roots the grove seemed to stiffen; it was almost as if the thorns were screaming, and they rose almost six or seven feet into the air. Then the whole structure seemed to falter, to collapse into the ground, and all the thorns decayed into dust, and then there was only the odor of stinking potash. And so the men returned back to their sick and unhealthy homes, thinking that at last they had destroyed the grove of thorns. And for one year, perhaps two, perhaps even four or five, the grove was not to be seen. But it soon became clear that this was not because the thorns had been destroyed, but because the new more subtle and dangerous thorns that had grown in their place did not care to be seen but instead preferred that their slithering and sinuous movements should mesmerize the lazy guardians of the grove into gorging themselves on their razor-sharp points."
"Well, that's a good start."
"Not really. All I've done is expand the story for another page and a half. But it isn't moving anywhere."
"Well, I'm sure you'll think of something."
Constantine however could only look inadequately into Vanessa's eyes and say "Couldn't you think of something else?" But before Vanessa could give her answer (which was "No, why should I?") Elizabeth Concrete popped into the room, and asked the two to come play some games with the rest of the group.
For the past half an hour there had been some unfunny attempts at charades, some limpid suggestions to play spin the bottle, and even a feeble insinuation that everyone should play strip poker, before Elizabeth successfully prompted one of her friends to suggest that everyone tell one of their sexual fantasies. On learning this Giles Seinkewicz got up to leave and Vanessa moved to get his coat. "By the way, Giles, where is your wife tonight? Peter would actually like to know."
Giles laughed. He actually laughed rather rudely, which was not normal for him. "I haven't seen my wife since at least two months before I married her. I would desperately like to knowwhere she is, but the only person who could possibly tell me refuses to give me the slightest help. I find this considerably frustrating, and to spend another thirty minutes listening to a bunch of spoiled students pant and whine would only make everything worse."
And so he left. Vanessa returned to the party, and happened to sit by Constantine. He had noticed that the main top of the pepper surprise had been removed, so he was now sitting as far away from it as possible. Lucian was smiling nearby with a Cheshire cat grin, as she flipped through one of Anais Ninny's diaries.
The girl who had suggested the idea went first. Her fantasy was a piece of preposterous nonsense about being either on a hot boiling desert or on some south sea island beach (she wasn'tterribly clear) and being in the arms of some enormously strong and well muscled man. She talked about cunnilingus for what appeared to be about an hour but was only three minutes in embarrassingly arch and childish language that bolstered her self-esteem before closing with a few platitudes about orgasm and spirituality.
The next person to speak was Adrian, who with complete honesty said he would most like to have sex with the previous speaker. He was just saying that thought hot mustard might go well when the young woman swatted him very hard with her purse. Vice-Inspector Sheryl Monagham, who spent much of her day adding subjects and verbs to Inspector Joseph Tyrone's laconic reports, was next and revealed that her ideal sexual fantasy was to rest nude in a hot tub in the arms of a man who might not be Irish-Canadian, who might not be Catholic, but who definitely did not share the same weight, height, build, eye colour, hair colour of Inspector Tyrone, who had a great sense of humor, who was not religious, who looked very much like the handsome young man who brought doughnuts to the police station, who never met unnerving Greek-Canadian lawyers about dead French senators and anonymous letters, who could not tell Finnegan's Wake from Finian's Rainbow and had never heard of either, who could not tell the difference between yeast and Yeats, whose idea of light conversation was not to discuss the rave reviews in the latest Times Literary Supplement given to the latest book of Professor Vivian Chelmnickon, who used you in every sentence, and who would spend six hours nude in a hot tub saying sweet nothings and sweet obscenities into her ear. She also liked oral sex. She believed herself to be a connoisseur of it, like she was of doughnuts.
The next two fantasies were by a nice young couple; the girlfriend gave a picture that involved a surfeit of arch euphemisms and a climax involving one of her boyfriend's greatest phobias. The boyfriend followed this with a patently unconvincing attempt to claim that his greatest sexual fantasywas to complement his lover's in each and every way. He was considerably relieved to finish and flashed a vindictive grin at Constantine to provide his fantasy.
Constantine stirred uncomfortably in his seat. He looked to Lucian sitting beside Aquilla Rogers, and saw that she kept checking her watch and her jar of pepper. He took a breath and stated one word. "Monogamy."
"Monogamy?" asked Charles jocularly.
Titters began to foam across the room, and Constantine realized he needed something more. So he added the name of a not unintelligent female movie star, an exotic location, and a bottle of the finest French champagne. He did not convince Charles--he knew perfectly well that Constantine couldn't stand French wines--but it was enough for the question to be passed on to Vanessa.
"In my fantasy there's this enormous library, filled with all the books that have ever been written and ever will be written. It's a vast labyrinth in German Baroque and French Gothic windows and all the books have intricate Morris-Ruskin leaden craftwork on the bindings. Here there are four thousand, three hundred and twenty nine books telling me everything that I ever wanted to know about Goethe. So I get a cart and I go around and around and around in an endless journey to get all four thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine books and I place all the books with their Morris-Ruskin leaden craftwork on my table. I look outside and its snowing outside and all the buildings in this enormous city share the same sort of German Baroque style."
"It's sort of like of Prague, then?" asked Constantine.
"Yes, come to think of it, it would be like Prague" and she remembered the stories her father told her about the only undestroyed city in Central Europe ruled by a coalition of disingenuous communists and nervous liberals, who, by one of history's less fashionable ironies, called themselves the Czech National Socialists. And she briefly remembered the story her father told her about Cracow, the city of despair, cathedrals, and the saviors of Europe, and about what it was like to be a Jew there on Good Friday 1944, where he had to pretend that he wasn't starving to death, and hoping no-one would smell him out, and just as a troop of soldiers were turning round the corner he saw near a convent what looked like a tropical..., but then one of the girls asked
"What happens next?"
"I take the books and I start reading them."
"And then after I've finished reading all four thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine books I know everything there is about Goethe."
"What kind of sexual fantasy is that?"
"It's called sublimation. You should try it sometime."
Vanessa then said her fantasy wasn't over; after you were finished with Goethe you had to start work on Kant, and then on Milton, and then on Descartes, but Charles tactfully cut her off. It should have been Elizabeth's turn to tell her deepest desires, but Vanessa noted rather bitterly that she had subtly excused herself a couple of fantasies ago and hadn't returned yet. So it was now Charles's turn to talk. The boyfriend with the phobia grinned to see if Charles could successfully flatter his girlfriend.
Charles smiled broadly and his eyes shone with pure confidence as he put away the book by Chomsky he was reading and began. "Imagine a picture in a frame. There's a beautiful bluesky covering the top half of the painting, and in the bottom half there's a field. It's full of grasses, but try to imagine a number of objects that are scattered across the field. A long bright red ribbon on the top of the grasses. A toy trumpet left behind by a forgetful child. A quilt that could be used for a picnic. Grasses that had been plucked in order to make little whistles. A bicyclist innocuously cycling down a side road into a shade of trees. A small second rate book of surprisinglytouching and sincere poems. Imagine yourself in this field that reaches out forever, and is covered in the sea of blue. It's secure, it's far away, it's so far away from the real sea, the sea that's cold, where sailors' boats sink and innocent children drown, where only bad-tasting fish live, where the wind blows over the carnage of sharks and salt, and blows ships over the curvature of the earth, bringing men with smallpox into a cold ignorant blood purged land, where saints the color of blood speak to priests wearing the color of Satan. It's not like the sea where cold latin cathecisms poison the living and torture the dead, where pregnant girls stab themselves to death in the night in the dead of winter, where everything is so cold and futile, where prattling accountants mutter cold parodies of deadly democracy, where crosses are shafted like daggers on public buildings. It's not like the field, the field is so different, the wind that blows here only blows here, it blowsnowhere else, it doesn't touch anyone else, it doesn't touch anything dark or nasty, it only touches you, as it lightly messes up your hair, and gently cools your warm skin as you look upwards to the hot azure above you. And there's a scent of heatherdown in the air, and you can feel the words your lover, and they are so tangible and you understand and everything is so clear and yet so sleepy and so warm and there's the scent of a natural and sweet perfume, not like a perfume bitter and pungent and flashily produced, and you can hear the birds and you can see them, but you never have to get too close to them, you need only see the colours as they fly and pirouette in the sky. And you remember what your lover removed from your skin and you vaguely recall that the long red ribbon lies a few feet away and that there's no need for you to pick it up or disturb its pattern, and you remember the picnics that you were on here before, and you recall the sweet poems that you were just reading a few minutes earlier, and how sweet they seem to you, and everything is so natural, so innocent. And as you are lying in the grass, there are no burrs, no weeds, no thorns, no dust, no dirt, there's just the smoothness and the untasted sweetness as you lie in the warmth,and as you are being held, it is in the field that..."
Aquilla Rogers fainted, and thus broke the spell that Charles had woven on all the guests, that had even charmed Lucian and Vanessa. Lucian looked over Aquilla and found that she was almost freezing. "Good God, woman, you've got some sort of chill. You should go and rest." So they managed to get the almost comatose Aquilla to stand up, got her things together, and quickly bundled her into her room across the hall and into bed.
Now that Aquilla was gone it was Lucian's turn. She watched Elizabeth, who had now returned, and was now caressing Charles. Lucian checked her watch, and smiled a large and cunning grin.
"So, Lucian. What turns you on?" asked one of the girls.
At which point absolutely nothing happened. The others stared at
a few seconds, except for
"Climax!" And just at that instant a jack in the box jumped seven feet in the air, scattering the Pepper surprise over the whole room and causing everyone to sneeze, except Lucian, who hadan antidote, and Constantine, who had been far enough away. Lucian broke into moderately hysterical laughter as the others sneezed helplessly and by the time she recovered herself the party was essentially over.
She and Adrian got up to leave, and were followed by the young couple. It was now apparent that Vice-Inspector Sheryl Monagham had gotten quite drunk, as had another young girl, so a cab had to be called for them. Vanessa and Elizabeth directed the two of them outside, Charles followed, and so did Constantine, who thought he would take the opportunity to leave, but soon had second thoughts. The girls were properly placed into the taxi, and Vanessa gave competent directions for the driver. The cab went away as Monagham started to sing a song about a lover who would chatter aimlessly into her ear.
The remaining quartet returned to the apartment.
"Don't anyone move! We've got twenty-six volumes of the complete
of St. Thomas Aquinas, and they're loaded!"
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