The Parliament of Gryphons

      It was Monday and Edward Thomas Harding was in Parliament.  For nearly two decades he had represented his Ottawa suburb riding and was widely known as the man who said that Canada had long held pride in our international reputation as a host for legitimate refugees, that Canada has long had pride in our international reputation as a peacekeeper, that Canada had long had pride in our international reputation as an open and democratic society, dedicated to the rule of the law, consensus, tolerance, diversity, national unity, and sauerkraut; a man who firmly believed with Marshall McLuhan that Canada was a global village, who said he liked to think that he was an agent of change, who said that we have to remain in control of our destinies, who noted that it was certainly one of the reasons I worked on the issue and who was very emotional in his calm reasonable manner and thought strongly that something must be done, who was known to be a man who speaks his mind and stands up for what he believes, who liked Americans, but said we had to look out for ourselves; and was famous for his words "I would like to address three areas in the Bill which I think warrant greater discussion in the committee," who was the sort of man who put people first, who worked for the good of his country, who worked on behalf of ordinary Canadians, who made sure that the New Democratic Party was the Party of the Average Man, who believed that all of us should work together, that we should all learn to understand each other, that we should all be nice to each other, that we shouldn't be naughty to each other, that everyone should get a fair hearing, that all of us should make sacrifices, that all of us should be quiet when someone else speaks, and that we can all make a better and decent Canada where we can all live happily and be patted on the head.  Edward Thomas Harding, or just Thomas Harding (he preferred his middle name) was well respected throughout Parliament as a man of unrivalled integrity; the only member who didn't particularly care for him was Ignatius Wilentz.

        Notwithstanding that, Harding was in his office and had invited both Wilentz and John Seinkewicz for some all party after-session cocktails.  "Cocktails" was a bit of a misnomer as Harding always watched how much he drank and was always socially responsibly made sure that no-one drank and drive with his wine.  So essentially the three were drinking lemonade flavored light beer, which Wilentz thought was very patronizing.  It was dark outside, an effect heightened by the late Victorian orange-yellow wallpaper and the red polka dotted curtains, but in fact it was only three o'clock and Wilentz thought that it would be wise to get back to work.  He looked over the bookcases:  there were five of them in Harding's office, all filled with Hansards and the reports of assorted committees.  Wilentz was not impressed and was about to get up to leave when he noticed the most distant bookcase.  An entire shelf had been filled with a strange box, but before Ignatius could look closely at it...

        "Isn't it nice that we can all put aside our party differences and simply be friends?"

        "No." responded Wilentz, ignoring Harding's question, and he got up to look at the box.  It was rectangular, about four times longer than it was wide and it appeared to be made out of metal that was sort of yellowish-turquoise, and as Ignatius looked closer at it he thought he saw shimmering triangles on the top.

        "What is this?" he inquired.

        "It's an antique.  My wife got it one day at an auction."

        "Why is it here and not in your house?"

        "My wife gave it to me as a gift.  She thought this place needed some more decoration, with all these dull bookcases."

        "What's in it?"

        "I don't really know actually.  I think it's empty.  I certainly hope it is; it would be rather embarrassing if there was something intimate or dangerous in there all this time and I hadn't noticed it."  Wilentz opened the box and found only dust.

        A few minutes later Wilentz was in his own office and he had just opened a letter from his sister.  He was not at all surprised to learn that Sarah Simricky had recently suffered multiple fractures to all four of her limbs; such an event had happened to her four times in the previous thirty five years.  The letter had been dictated to her youngest child, who was less than ten years old.  It was a considerable surprise that she had been conceived; had she not been born a month premature (causing considerable pain and financial worry to her parents) Sarah Simricky would have entered the Guinness book of records as the world's oldest mother.  But she was born a month early, so the Simrickys were still desperately poor.  In the letter Sarah was telling about the recent marriage of one of her daughters, Hannah.   She had just married the only child of a single mother whose entire family had been brutally murdered by the Nazis, though some had been beaten up before then by Communists, Polish nationalists, Romanian Iron Guards, miscellaneous Latvians and even a few sadistic Swedes who were vacationing in the neighborhood.  Hannah had to scrimp and save in order to get a decent dress.  She had to sell their new toilet, practiced the Yom Kippur fast for three months and seriously considered using their handsomely bound Torah for toilet paper.  Finally, a meteor fell through the roof, smashing itself right on their insurance application and the two lovers seriously considered prostituting themselves so they could raise enough money to starve in a decent way.  Luckily, an old friend won a lottery prize just before he was trampled to death by a herd of camels, and the couple inherited enough money for Hannah to buy a nice clean white dress.  And so they married and she became pregnant.  But in Hannah's ninth month, as she and her husband were sitting in a cafe, a terrible thing happened.  It would be later revealed that the cafe was frequented by Palestinian subversives, that the waiters often read Holocaust denial literature, that the cooks snickered at the bombing of innocent little Jewish children and that the head of the restaurant was the best man of Yasir Arafat's brother in law; so as Hannah gave her husband a kiss after he had been away doing his military service for the pass three months, so as her husband was about to give her a special gift that he had bought by fasting every Thursday for the past seven weeks, so as the first movements of labor were about to begin, and as their first child was about to appear in the world, a dark suspicious man with Arab features lurched around the cafe and as he approached the happy couple he took something from his waistcoat, and deliberately, malignantly, premeditatedly, and sadistically tripped and spilled ugly red ketchup on Hannah's nice clean white dress!  After that event Sarah thought she couldn't live anymore, why had she been allowed to live just so that she could suffer like this, why after all this she didn't want to go on anymore but just lay down and sigh.  And how could these Arabs go on like this?  Weren't they just dangerous fanatics and didn't Hitler give the Bosnians a special legion?  (Bosnians aren't Arabs, thought Ignatius, but kept reading.)  She couldn't forgive the Arabs at all; why even the Germans were models of good taste and humanity compared to them.  For a start, they were much better musicians.  And how much better the Czechs were!  Why they were moral, sincerely democratic, were wonderfully creative, had a great sense of humor, were versatile lovers, were great fun at parties, were models of decency and courage, (particularly the middle class ones living in exile), had enormous penises, and only had extra-marital affairs with women whose husbands were paralyzed and who explicitly agreed to their own cuckolding, or who were nasty fellow travelers or Communists, in which case adultery was a positive mitzvah.

        "Obviously your husband helped you a bit with this letter."  And Ignatius put it down as the telephone rang.  It was Mary Lightfeathers, calling from the Wilentz home.  "I've just been reading this horrifying article on how the Catholic church systematically wiped out the culture of the native students in its schools.  It's incredible how they did it.  Don't you find this shocking?"

        "Excuse me, Ms. Sarahson, but what does this have to do with the essay on Valery that I am expecting from you when I come home this evening?"

        "Nothing, of course."

        "Then why are you bothering me?"

        "Well, it's just so atrocious."

        "As are a large number of other things, but I hardly see why you have to go out of your way to tell me about this sordid affair in particular."

        "I just had to tell someone!"

        "Well, why don't you telephone Harding?  I'm sure he'll be thrilled.   But your current priority is to finish your essay on Valery, and that is what I expect when I come home this evening.  Good day, Ms. Sarahson." and he hung up.

        Ignatius Wilentz set himself to his constituency work for the next several hours.  Though he personally found it rather boring, and often irredeemably petty, he kept at it without a break except to remember a conversation he had had with Alice Concrete a few days earlier.

        Somehow Ignatius Wilentz found himself chatting with Mrs. Concrete, a person whom he respected even less than he did Harding, and she was talking about anti-Americanism in the Canadian left, and going on about how dangerous it was.  "It's interesting when you consider it.  If you took out 'American' in the NDP's speeches, and replaced it with 'Jew' the results would often look like Nazi propaganda.  Don't you agree Mr. Wilentz?"

        "No." said Wilentz very firmly and decisively, but Concrete kept chattering, and said how much she respected America and how angry she got when Canada second guessed her foreign policy and carped behind her back.  America was a great country, and we should do more to encourage pro-American feeling in Canada.

        "What would you have in mind, Mrs. Concrete?"

        "We could show how superior American cultural and intellectual life is; that would be a good start."

        Oddly enough, Ignatius Wilentz found himself in instinctive sympathy with this position.  "That's actually a very good idea Mrs. Concrete.  Too much anti-Americanism is petty and envious, and we should make it quite clear that America has a culture and a political tradition that all Canadians should admire.  Perhaps a foundation could be set up that would encourage Canadians to appreciate American music, painting and sculpture and let young Canadians know America's best playwrights, poets and novelists."

        Mrs. Concrete was not at all wild about this idea; her main goal was actually to encourage more Canadians to read american conservatives.  "Novelists?  What sort of novelists?"

        "Well, there are so many.  Dreiser, for instance."

        "Dreiser's a horrible person.  I mean he had a horrible style, he was a communist fellow traveler, and he was an anti-semitic adulterer."

        Wilentz deferred from giving his usual resort to this sort of answer ("So What?") and instead asked "Really.  And what Dreiser have you read Mrs. Concrete?"

        "Well, I haven't actually read anything by him.  After all the books are so long and badly written you couldn't expect to get through one of them, so I haven't bothered to start one.  But I do know that the esteemed American literary critic Lionel Trilling considered Dreiser a very poor writer, and I defer to his opinion."

        "Oh, so you've read Trilling?"

        "Well no, not really.  Trilling is a little too difficult for me, but I have heard that Commentary considers his early opinions to be among the best of this century."

        "Oh, so you subscribe to Commentary?"

        "Well, no, it's not really my cup of tea.  But I have read in the Supplement to the News--a valuable and witty publication on the liberal mass media which everyone should read--that Commentary is definitely on the level."

        "Undoubtedly.  Have you read any James?"

        "Oh that nineteenth-century stuff doesn't mean anything to me."


        "That's just Children's literature isn't it?"


        "Didn't he write The Song of Hiawatha?  I used to like that when I was a child."

        "What about Hawthorne?  I think that you might like that."

        "I've read 'The Scarlet Letter.'  Or I've heard of it.  I've heard he's very strong on original sin.  It's important to believe in original sin.  So I think it's very important to admire him, even if you haven't actually read him."


        "Oh, he's just impossible to read."


        "Who's he?"

        "Do you read any American novels?"

        "Oh, I read all sorts of them.  I read Tom Clancy and James Michener.  I definitely recall seeing movies based on novels by them.  I know people like you often look down on writers like Michener, but there's one thing you can't deny:  he's very long.  I tried something by Stephen King that my daughter gave me, but I couldn't get past the first few chapters."

        "What a pity.  I find King to be quite hilarious."

        "I have read Gone with the Wind, and I've read some of Pearl Buck's novels.  For some reason the school district I grew up loved John Steinbeck and I read at least four of his novels, even though many of them aren't appropriate for adolescents.  On the other hand, I have," she tried to hint roguishly "read some novels by Judith Krantz."

        "Well, your secret is safe with me."

        "Whatever people say about America, it can't be denied that nobody writes novels like Americans."

        "And nobody reads them like Canadians."

        At six thirty Ignatius Wilentz finished his work and started to go home.  As he was leaving he saw Harding coming towards him.  "Oh hello, Harding." he said without enthusiasm.

        "Hello Ignatius.  Going home to the old ball and chain?  Oh I forgot, you only have your watch-chain."

        "Yes." and Ignatius pulled out his watch which kept perfect time, even with daylight saving time.  Harding continued to talk to him when a man came rushing up the steps.  "Hello, who the devil is this?" he asked.

        Wilentz recognized the man.  "This is Professor Albert Hermann, a member of the Vatican embassy.  He's actually rather active in the city; he's a major philanthropist and has helped set up a club of lay Catholics in the city.  Seinkewicz is a member of it, and for that matter so was Veniot.  What may we do for you Professor?"

        "You are the Honorable Ignatius Wilentz, M.P?"

        "I am."

        "Are you trying to kill me?"

        "I beg your pardon?"

        "No.  That is not the right answer to `Are you trying to kill me?'  Some questions have a limited number of possible responses.  There are only three possible responses to this question. They are 'Yes,' 'No,' and 'I don't know, I'm thinking about it.'  'I beg your pardon' is not a legitimate answer."

        "My answer is No.  I would like to ask a question with a more complex answer.  Why would you think I would want to kill you in the first place?"

        "You have a daughter?"


        "And her name is Natasha Wilentz?"


        "And do you know that at this moment she is currently in Amsterdam arranging a puppet play about safe sex at the graveside of Benedict Spinoza?"

        "Why on earth would she be doing that?" asked Harding.

        "Obviously," said Wilentz patiently "because Rembrandt's grave is booked six months in advance."

        Hermann reasserted himself.  "The fact is that Natasha Wilentz has not been seen for three years, and her current location is unknown to you, the lawyer who handles her affairs and to both her husbands.  But is that really the case?  Do you really not know where your daughter is?"

        "How did you find my daughter?"

        "God told me."

        "Oh he did, did he?"

        "He also told me that my life is in danger.  He also told me that there is a conspiracy to murder someone who is, or will be, dead."

        "What else did he tell you?"

        "God says that the Daily Telegraph has really gone downhill since Conrad Black took over as editor."

        "Oh, I don't know.  The Daily Telegraph was a mediocre, dishonest and self-centered paper when Black bought it, and Black has lived up to its historic traditions."

        "Yes, but you see..." but Wilentz had already taken out his watch and used it to mesmerize the unaware Hermann.  As the leader of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade stood motionless Wilentz paced around him, as if checking for defects.  Finding none, Wilentz asked Hermann to cluck like a chicken.


        "And why not?"

        "Because it would be humiliating and foolish."

        Harding interrupted.  "Why is he resisting?  I thought you had him hypnotized?"

        "Very simple, Harding.  A person under hypnosis cannot be made to do things that he or she sincerely does not want to do.  We now know that Albert Hermann does not want to make a fool of himself in public.  This sort of makes my second demand of him quite useless."

        "What did you want him to do next?"

        "Oh, I don't know.  I toyed with the idea of having him push you down the staircase."

        "I would rather cut off my left hand and purge myself in acid than harm an innocent man."

        "No doubt.  You see, Harding, Hermann is a man with an unusually strong will.  I was very lucky to hypnotize him in the first place.  I think it would be wise to ask him some questions.  Alright, Hermann, why do you think anyone would want to kill you?"

        "The deaths of Senator Veniot and Miss Manzoni are part of a plot directed against the members of the Philhellenon club."

        "What reason do you have to believe this?"

        "There is secret evidence of a confidential nature that indicates Senator Veniot was murdered."

        "Evidence, what sort of evidence?" blurted out Harding.

        "Quiet, Harding.  Yes, the inquest on Senator Veniot has been delayed.  What sort of evidence are we talking about?"

        "I refuse to answer; it would dishonor the Senator."

        "You must tell me."

        "I refuse."

        "Tell me.  I command you to answer me."

        Wilentz angrily stared at the somnambulant, as Hermann sweated, his eyes glazed, and he started to hyperventilate.  Then he surrendered.  "There is physical evidence of another man around Veniot's corpse.  More I will not say."

        "Nonsense." said Harding.  "I refuse to believe you."

        "Are you planning something, Hermann?  Why did you come to parliament, aside from accusing me?"

        "I have an assignation."

        "With whom?"

        "I refuse to tell you."

        "What were you going to talk about at your meeting?"

        "It's not a meeting.  It's more of a visitation."

        "Who are you working for, Hermann?"

        "I am the leader of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade."

        "The what?" queried Harding.

        "Harding, shut up.  What is the Flannery O'Connor Brigade?"

        "I refuse to tell you.  I will only say that it consists of the Shiner of the Shoes of the Fisherman, the Master of the Marthas, the Defender of St. Rose of Lima, the Legionmeister of the Signet of St. Luke, the Holder of the Averroes Seal, and the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata."

        "I see.  Who is the Shiner of the Shoes?"

        "I am."

        "Good, we're making progress.  Who is the Master of the Marthas?"

        "I refuse to tell you."

        "We're not making much progress."  said Harding.  "Are you sure he's hypnotized?"

        "Well there's a reasonably simple way to find out.  Harding, do you have an envelope and some notepaper?"  Harding did, and Wilentz gave them to Hermann.  "Hermann, I direct you to find a surface and to do the following.  You will write on the paper the following sentence:  'At 6:39 PM, Monday, November the --, I was hypnotized by Ignatius Wilentz in the halls of the House of Commons and made to write a sentence about dandelions.'  You will place the paper in the envelope, and you will place the envelope in a breast pocket.  For the next three days you will not notice the envelope at all, even if you look directly at it while changing your clothes.  Only when I telephone you Thursday evening and reveal to you the existence of the envelope will you notice it, and open it."

        Hermann did as he was told and placed the envelope in a breast pocket right beside the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi. On the conclusion of this Wilentz started to move away.  "Come on Harding, let's go."

        "But Hermann's still in his trance."

        "Oh, it will wear off in about an hour or so.  I shan't worry about it, though perhaps you could see that he doesn't get lost in the halls.  Good day!"  And with that Wilentz left Parliament and returned to spend the rest of the evening listening to a somewhat uninspired essay on Valery written by Mary Lightfeathers.  He cared little for what had happened to him that day, and he went to the bed fairly bored.

        On the other hand Alice Concrete saw something that day that she would remember for the rest of her life.  She was sitting in her office and she was thinking about her daughter, whom she had named after the queen.  If there were any regrets in her life, it was that her relation with her daughter was not as close as her own relationship with the woman she occasionally thought was her mother.  Mabel Shields was still alive and reasonably healthy, though her husband had been dead for more than two decades.  One of the reasons she had married Daniel Raymond was the prospect of getting a free baby daughter along with the marriage, and every Sunday she gave her adopted daughter a little gift.  This practice had continued long after she had grown up; indeed Mrs. Concrete had just received this Sunday's gift by parcel post.  It was a packet of shampoo, and Mrs. Concrete had absent-mindedly opened and dumped it into her coffee.  There was something about shampoo that deeply appealed to her.  At an early age she was fascinated by the aseptic smell and the manufactured bitterness.  She liked the fact it made her parents happy when she spontaneously smeared it on her hair.  The idea of purity that shampoo represented obsessed her, and she always wanted to have it around, not merely for her hair, but also under her armpits, under her feet, between her thighs and on top of her tongue.  She even liked to swallow it.  While other girls smoked cigarettes, drank rotgut, or even read Partisan Review, Alice Concrete's sole vice was the ingestion of Shampoo.  It often made her sick, and people seriously wondered about a young woman often covered in an emerald lather; but her mother continued to spoil her, and she kept her nibbling habit.

        Her first problem with her daughter came over the shampoo gifts that her putative mother gave her putative granddaughter.  Both Alice Concrete and Mabel Shields Raymond were brunettes, but Elizabeth Concrete was a blonde with sparklingly beautiful hair.  In fact the hair was so beautiful, that only the most exotic shampoos and conditioners would really do it justice.  Certainly not the shampoos that her grandmother kept sending her, and which remained unopened in her top bedroom drawer, until Alice opened them and guiltily munched on them.  Indeed, before she moved to a large city, and could earn enough money to get proper shampoos, Elizabeth Concrete had to keep her hair in shape with a special embalming fluid that her father gave her to mix with the conditioner.

        Other problems had developed in the daughter-mother relation at an early age.  Mabel loved to play patty-cake and sing old English nursery rhymes to her daughter, which Alice never grew tired of.  Elizabeth, however, grew very tired of pattycakes and nursery rhymes rather quickly, and Alice had to face the daunting task of finding something to read to her curious daughter, who was always asking for something new.  Madame Vovelle had sent her niece a book teaching French children how to learn English fairy tales, and vice versa; but Alice made sure she never got around to reading it to Elizabeth.  Pandora Vovelle sent her cousin a poem saying that if she was a good girl and worshipped God, she would not spend the rest of eternity being tortured in Hell, and Pandora's little sister sent her some dandelions in the mail, which turned to dust by the time Elizabeth received them.  But neither Alice nor Elizabeth knew, or would know, French, so the rare gifts the Vovelle sisters sent to them went completely over their heads.  Avare Seinkewicz, who was the Roget most in touch with Alice, sent her some books by E. Nesbit.  And so Alice managed to satisfy Elizabeth for a few weeks, and was halfway through "The Phoenix and the Carpet" when she learned that Nesbit was both a socialist and a feminist and had been seven months pregnant at the time of her marriage.  When she told this to Hector's brother in law, a member of the local Social Credit riding association, he managed to "lose" the book in the local garbage can.  Alice was genuinely surprised at their loss, and could never understand why Elizabeth believed that her mother had vindictively got rid of them just to spite her.  But Elizabeth did believe that, and the fact that the same thing happened the three other times she got E. Nesbit books for presents did not improve her opinion of her mother.  This was more than a bit unfair; Alice Concrete had a far more liberal attitude towards L. Frank Baum than the Seinkewiczs and would have read Elizabeth all the books in the series had she been aware of them.

        So Alice read to her daughter forgettable children's books that both of them soon forgot and she would interrupt Elizabeth's playing with her favorite toy--the television--to read her bible stories.  Alas, she did not do this very well either.  She would either read a specially prepared book of bible stories, which were written in a horribly lachrymose and sentimental style which underestimated Elizabeth's intelligence by about three years; or she would read from the King James Version.  But she often did not understand the phrasing, and Elizabeth had a special talent for asking awkward questions.  So when Elizabeth asked what it meant when it said that Adam "knew" Eve, her mother lost a considerable amount of face trying to provide a deceitful explanation.  And there were the stories about Tamar and Onan that were abruptly stopped halfway through the reading.  And then there was the passage about Cain.

        "Mommy, how could Cain find a wife if the only other people living on the earth were his parents?"

        Alice knew the answer to this one; she had read it in a book of apologetics.  "Well, Adam and Eve had a lot of daughters as well.  Cain must have married one of them."

        "How come the Bible doesn't say that?"

        "Oh, because that isn't important."

        "Does that mean if you had a boy, I could marry him?"

        "But I don't have a boy, I only have you."

        "Well why don't you marry one of your brothers?"

        "It's impossible.  I don't have any." and then she put Elizabeth to bed and only later realized that wasn't quite the right answer.

       There were other problems as well.  Every week the Concretes went to church, and every week they badgered an unenthusiastic Elizabeth to come along.  Alice was surprised how bored her daughter was; she had forgotten that her imagined parents had not gone to church that often themselves.  "What did you learn in Sunday School today?" she asked her twelve-year old daughter.

        "God made the flowers out of sunshine!"


        "Of course not, mother.  But that's what the materials in sunday school said."

        As Elizabeth grew up, the less she believed in her faith.  When Alice heard her mocking the Virgin Birth, she grounded her for three Saturdays in a row.  (It never occurred to her to refute Elizabeth's rather cheap scorn with the facts of her own conception.)  Elizabeth successfully debated her mother over evolution, and at eighteen started reading New Age texts.  She became a committed feminist and managed to wiggle out of being confirmed, and Alice was deeply hurt when she found out that Elizabeth no longer attended services while at University.  As time went on, she had to accept the fact that her daughter had rejected Christianity.  She did not understand why this had happened, but she blamed the media, Elizabeth's boyfriends, and some token sunday school teachers.  She tried to keep in touch, and even more so now that she was in Ottawa.  But Elizabeth managed to keep a distance between them, so that Mrs. Concrete rarely visited the apartment, but only telephoned it intermittently, often dropping off questionable advice about contraception (it was evil, but more acceptable after one was married), venereal disease (she never realized that her daughter knew more about AIDS and chlamydia than she did), and her most recent and most serious boyfriend Charles Harding ("He's not pushing you to go too far?" she asked a bewildered Charles after he answered the phone one morning after five hours of exhausting lovemaking).

        She had managed to overcome her disappointment by entering politics.   The first petitions she had ever signed were ones demanding the reinstitution of capital punishment and the curbing of bilingualism.  By an odd anomaly her MP at that moment happened to be Ignatius Wilentz, who used the petitions as kindling in his fireplace and xeroxed a fifteen page letter to the three-hundred petitioners saying why he opposed capital punishment, a letter that Hector subsequently used for kindling.  She was always upset over liberalized abortion laws and as the eighties began she began actively protesting it.  She started subscribing to anti-tax organizations and started to read neo-conservative classics that confirmed all her opinions.  One day she said to Ignatius Wilentz "I bet you didn't know that Karl Marx seduced his own maid and sired an illegitimate son."

        "I didn't know it for the simple ontological reason that he didn't seduce anyone or sire any unaccounted for offspring."

        Mrs. Concrete happily cited a dozen references that discussed the conception of Frederick Demuth.  "Everyone knows about him and the maid."

        "Undoubtedly.  But everyone seems to have been somewhat misinformed.   There is strong evidence to show that everyone of those twelve writers are wrong, or at best unconvincing.  Now when we examine the main source for the story, the letter of Karl Kautsky's first wife we find a very peculiar..."

        But at that moment the division bells started ringing, and Wilentz had to leave, and Alice Concrete grinned in triumph in the first of many debating victories to come.  So when the Reform party was looking for someone to run in the riding of Western Somme in a by-election, and Hector Concrete showed no interest, Mrs. Concrete was the obvious choice.  She had a few problems with her first campaign; when she said in a discussion of sex education that most grade twelve girls were virgins, Elizabeth snorted in derision.  When Alice discussed her husband she said that though her husband had been a mortician for three decades, his record was unimpeachable; no-one had ever suspected him of "hanky-panky."  This was completely true, but for the next few months people gave Hector Concrete strange looks when they saw him on the street.  But otherwise the campaign went reasonably well and in a major upset Alice Concrete won the riding by a sizeable margin.  She soon had a province wide reputation and had become one of the Reform party's stars.  They considered her a hero for her battle against bilingualism: here she opposed the federal government classifying any federal jobs in the West as bilingual.  She did not succeed, and could not prevent a grand total of three positions from requiring the use of French, but it was the thought that counted.  She disarmed criticism by noting that her father's first wife was a French-Canadian Catholic, and she continued her struggle to have a referendum on capital punishment, remove the dreaded sales tax, and to ensure that the Canada Council didn't fund paintings with any naughty bits in them.

        This particular Monday Mrs. Concrete was in her office writing some letters, slowly sipping some shampoo-coffee, and wondering why so many scientists believed in evolution.  As she was wondering whether she should include in her constituency letter her private belief that Karl Marx was a devil-worshipper, she heard some scratching on the outside window.  Since she happened to be on the third floor, and there were no window washers or painters working today, Mrs. Concrete wondered what could be outside.  She got up and looking outside she saw near the boughs of the evergreens that the winter had already turned black a figure clothed in billowing blue-white shroud like sheets whose wings seemed to incarnate and reflect the growing dusk and darkness.  The figure was carrying something that looked like a trumpet, only it was more graceful, purer, more abstract and in its left hand it was carrying some sort of scroll that fluttered beneath it and had red sprigs of holly attached to it.  And to Mrs. Concrete's complete surprise the figure looked back at her with sunset eyes and smiled.

        Never before in her life had Mrs. Concrete been so excited.  Admittedly, she had not had a terribly exciting life.  Her earliest memory was seeing the stronger, older young Hector Concrete making a few token shovels into Marie Abelard Roget Raymond's grave.  She had remembered Hector, but she had forgotten her mother, as she had forgotten much else that might have caused her pain.  She didn't sneeze until she was fifteen years old and she was the only person her age who could not remember where she was when she learned John F. Kennedy had been assassinated (typing a letter about ball-bearings, in fact).  Mabel Shields was surprised to learn that her stepdaughter couldn't be tickled and unknown to Alice and despite the excruciatingly moderate sexual demands of her husband, she was still a virgin.  She had never been spanked, she had trouble remembering her father's funeral and her most intense experience came from the after-effects from eating too much shampoo.  But despite the lack of emotional crescendos in her life, she was truly and deeply astonished by what she had just seen, and naturally wanted to rush out and tell the first person she met.

        Whereupon there was a problem.  Hector Concrete was at this moment attending a week-long convention in the Nebraska city with the world's lowest prostitution rate, and Mrs. Concrete had forgotten the number back in Alberta.  Mrs. Concrete naturally tried to telephone Elizabeth, but this was unusually difficult.  Elizabeth Concrete had not in fact returned from Charles Harding's apartment since last Friday evening, and none of her friends had seen her for the past three days.  Ordinarily Vanessa Wilentz would have been in the apartment and would have given Mrs. Concrete the number of Charles' apartment, which is where she would have found her daughter.  But Vanessa Wilentz was not in her apartment.  Her parents had asked her if she could come along to join the mourners of Veruca Manzoni.  She agreed and she had decided to stay with her parents for the next couple of days.  Mrs. Concrete wanted to telephone her stepmother next, and tell her about the apparition, and thank her for the shampoo as well, but then she remembered that she had forgotten her telephone number, that Mabel Shields Raymond ordinarily wouldn't be home until five hours later, and anyway Mrs. Raymond had taken this week to visit a nephew in Saskatchewan who sold refrigerators door to door.  She thought of telephoning her pastor, her accountant, some of her friends, and leading members of the Reform Party, but she was too flustered to remember any of their numbers.  Completely confused she burst out of her office and dashed madly across the floor looking for someone to tell before she (literally) ran into John Seinkewicz M.P.   "Mr. Seinkewicz, just the person I'm looking for."

        "Oh really?" said Seinkewicz, who did not consider being looked for by Mrs. Concrete an encouraging thing to happen to him on a late Monday afternoon.

        "I've just seen the most incredible thing in the world!"

        "Really?  What is it?"

        "Well I can't tell you.  You're not important enough.  But I have to tell somebody in Ottawa that I've seen this incredible sight.  Who do you think is the smartest person in the city, and what's his telephone number?"

        Seinkewicz was strongly tempted to give his sister-in-law the name of a phone-sex operation that specialized in masochism, but stronger forces prevailed and he took out a card and wrote the name and number of Vivian Chelmnickon.  A few minutes later the phone rang in the Chelmnickon household.

        "Yes, this is Mrs. Vivian Chelmnickon speaking."

        "Oh good, it's so nice to reach you.  I've heard so many wonderful things about you, such as how wise Vivian Chelmnickon is, and how well learned Vivian Chelmnickon is, and now I get a chance to actually talk to you."

        "Excuse me, I think you may have made a mistake..."

        "Oh no I haven't.  It's known the world over what a wonderful and brave person you are and so I've just go to tell you this wonderful news."

        "You seem to be a bit confused, now..."

        "Please don't interrupt, I'm simply bubbling over with enthusiasm, and if I get interrupted I won't be able to continue."

        "Listen you silly woman, I'm not Vivian Chelmnickon."

        "Oh it was so nice and wonderful, and I've just got..." but at that point Vivian took the receiver from his wife.  "Vivian Chelmnickon speaking."

        "Wasn't I just speaking to Mrs. Chelmnickon?"


        "So who are you then?"

        "Vivian Chelmnickon.  I just told you."

        "Nonsense, I was just speaking to Vivian Chelmnickon."

        "You were speaking to my wife.  Vivian happens to be my first name.  Can I help you?"

        As it happens Vivian couldn't, because Mrs. Concrete was now so enthusiastic and excited as to be completely incomprehensible.  For seven minutes Chelmnickon desperately tried to make sense of her while under the glare of his suspicious wife.  But after Mrs. Concrete hanged up on the other end, Vivian had another one of his special insights.

        "So what was that about?" asked his wife rudely.

        "Angels.  There are angels floating around Ottawa."

        John Seinkewicz left the House of Commons shortly after his meeting with Mrs. Concrete.  He had never liked his sister-in-law, ever since her maiden speech when she referred to the "Katie-N" massacre.  Then John Seinkewicz audibly called her a stupid bitch on the floor of the House; but he said it in Polish so only Ignatius Wilentz understood.  The fact that Concrete's party had an even chance of defeating Seinkewicz in the next federal election didn't improve his feelings toward her, and the way the Reform Party regularly portrayed him as a sycophant and a traitor to his province, laying special attention on his membership in the Philhellenon Club, infuriated him.  He cursed Mrs. Concrete under his breath, decided that a long walk to the Philhellenon Club would do him some good, and apparently started talking to himself.

       "Apparently" was the apposite word, since Seinkewicz had never talked to himself before he met Avare Roget.  But the first five celibate years of the marriage caused such silences that they could best be filled by husband and wife incessantly chattering to each other.   And so this continued, long after Giles was born, as the couple felt a continuing need to tell almost everything they knew to each other.  And they did not consider the fact that one of them might be three thousand kilometers from the other a sufficient excuse for silence.

       But as it happened, while he was talking to his wife on his way to the Philhellenon club, and as he sauntered around the war memorial sixteen times and ruminated about his past, and as he walked around the buildings of the Justice Ministry five times generally filling the air with words, John Seinkewicz was not talking to himself.  Every word he said was being assiduously noted by Louis Dramsheet who had been following him very closely and extremely carefully since he had left the Parliament buildings.  So while Dramsheet kept notes, Seinkewicz remembered.

       He remembered the birthday party he had had when Giles was nine.  One of his parliamentary colleagues had sent him an incredibly beautiful prostitute as a gift, while another one sent him an enormous cake that Avare was to pop out from.  Naturally there was a conflict, which John solved by racing from the party room to reprimand his son for bursting into tears because he couldn't eat the model cake.  He remembered the time that Ignatius Wilentz gave a volume of Rainer Maria Rilke's poems to all two hundred and eighty one of his parliamentary colleagues for Purim.  And he also remembered how Wilentz's almost iron patience almost cracked when Seinkewicz admitted that he was the two hundred and twenty-fifth member of parliament in a row neither to have heard of Rilke or to have read the volume of his work.  Wilentz did not almost strangle him to death in sheer rage, but he tactfully insinuated that was a perfectly reasonable course of action.  He remembered the time of Giles' twelfth birthday when he saw his wife for the first time in a month and was so infatuated with her all over again that he completely forgot about his son.  And then he remembered, just before Louis Dramsheet was completely bored to death, the convention in London.

       It was the conference of the Democratic International, a League of Conservative parties that had been formed a few years earlier, and John Seinkewicz was part of the Canadian delegation.  The convention was being held in the newest, flashiest, largest and gaudiest hotel that had been built by the leading press tycoon, Hampden Crock, who had made his reputation by having bare-breasted women on the pages of his tabloids.  Crock considered it a personal insult if he saw the delegates reading more moderate fare; so a helpful French delegate handed out free copies to Polish and Hungarian émigrés.  The convention itself was being stage-managed by one Walton Quayle, who had received special attention for his role in dealing with problems in the American saving and loans industry.  During the conference Seinkewicz heard the most amazing rumors about Quayle:  that he offered one industrialist a thrift for $350 million, and in return for the thrift the lucky industrialist could get two billion in subsidies, and that didn't include the tax breaks; that one German money maker was to pay $315 million for one thrift, and therefore get $7.1 billion in good assets, $5.1 billion in bad ones, and $900 million in tax breaks; that one industrialist would be given benefits of $897 million in return for $315 million in cash, and that one lucky man only had to put up nine-hundred and eighty nine bucks of his own money, along with $70 million in borrowed cash, and was promised $1.85 billion in federal subsidies.  The most amazing thing about all these rumours was that they were all true, but Seinkewicz refused to believe them.   The American delegates had more important things to be morally concerned about.  African-American illegitimacy rates were particuarly popular; and off and on Seinkewicz was subjected to several plaintive queries about how things had gone downhill since Martin Luther King.  They were indeed SO disappointed, and after ALL the things they'd done for them.  Jewish delegates were most successful in these efforts:  Seinkewicz saw some first rate crocodile tears fall into their excellent martinis.

        Between conference sessions there were large book fairs in the hotel.  Here you could get all sorts of souvenirs, memorabilia and novelties.  You could get buttons with "Remember Katyn" written on them, you could get buttons commemorating prisoners of war missing in action in Vietnam, you could get pennants honoring the P.O.W.s, as well as flags, armbands, beanies, make up-kits, wallpaper patterns, toilet paper, china settings, Lacroix dresses, "Saturday Night Specials", children's arm clocks, Winnie-the-pooh bears, Nintendo Video Games, mink stoles, tea-trays, bumper stickers, and compact disc players.  You could even get condoms honoring MIAs, with the tops cut off for Catholic delegates.  You could get books such as How to become Incredibly rich in less than a month, with its sequel How your sole single-minded pursuit of wealth will make everybody in the world richer and happier, theological works such as God and the Leveraged Buyout, political pamphlets such as Was Averell Harriman a Soviet Spy?, with its sequels, Was Lester B. Pearson a Soviet Spy? Was Harold Wilson a Soviet Spy? Was Willy Brandt a Soviet Spy? and Was Franklin Roosevelt a Soviet Spy?   Here you could learn such incredible facts as how the North Vietnamese dropped poisoned lollipops all over Cambodia, how the KGB tried to assassinate the Archbishop of Canterbury using a Cypriot pie salesman, and how Libyan terrorists were stalking through America, and in the White House itself, making sure that the Leader of the Free World would never be able to watch all his favorite sitcoms.  There were neo- liberal works such as How the Democratic Party can get back into power by Jumping up and down on Pregnant Black Unwed Mothers, great works of literature such as the novels of William Buckley and Tom Clancy, as well as more theological works such as Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, Darwin and Freud:  Satan's six deadly agents and how you can combat their influence.  There were smug pieces on AIDS and the fate of homosexuals, some of them actually written by gays, which were published by Memory Hole press, which is apposite since that is where they were going to go.  There were Gertrude Himmelfarb chastity belts, Richard Herrenstein intelligence tests, Margaret Thatcher poetry bras, Arnold Schwarzenegger video games, and Nancy Reagan lingerie; there were T.S. Eliot teapots, Ezra Pound pastrami, Evelyn Waugh whiskey, Lee Iacocca spermicides, and best of all the Ludwig von Mises electric dildo.

        Seinkewicz picked one up.  "You should make an Ayn Rand model." he said to the vendor.

        "That's what I started out with!  I made a fortune!"

        A short Spanish delegate made his acquaintance with Seinkewicz.  He introduced himself as Galdos Tarranques, and he was the great-great nephew of the great Spanish chemist Victor Enrique Tarranques, a devout Catholic who had almost discovered the periodic table before Mendeleev.  But didn't.  "Had he succeeded he would have done the Spanish church more good than a hundred cheap apologists."  Oddly enough Victor Tarranques was involved with several murders, including that of a couple of impeccable aristorcratic pedigree and invulnerable chastity.  His great nephew, Galdos' father, had been a Carlist who in the last days of the Franco government had joined in an alliance with the Communists and several other factions before the PSOE and massive support from the Socialist International made the compromises happily irrelevant.  Galdos Tarranques himself represented a small Spanish liberal party, and was in a poor mood because he could not find the works of the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset.  He had considerable trouble explaining to the vendors who Ortega was.  Some people had clearly thought that the title of his major work, The Revolt of the Masses, must be a subversive book.  Others simply showed no interest in a man who was dead and didn't speak English.  Others still heard rumors that he might not have been a supporter of Franco, and was therefore suspect.  Standing in the shade of a plastic palm tree, whose leaves were made with fool's gold and which was studded by cheap zircons and fake diamonds, Tarranques complained.  "These worthless Anglo-Saxons; all they think about is sex and money.  You think I'm being unfair, but I'm not.  They're not like the Gilmours, or "The Spectator" on a good day, or C.H. Sisson or F.R. Leavis.  You think there are more intelligent Americans, but I'd have better luck saving my soul getting sucked off by Irving Howe then reading the Straussians.  I mean, I don't know if you know Russell Kirk, but sometimes people think he had class, he had grace, he had wisdom.  Bullshit, he was just a pompous windbag.  I suppose it's too much to think he should now or care about Spain, but when he decided to talk about Spanish culture, he didn't talk about Valle-Inclan, Machado, Lorca, Cela or Ortega y Gasset.  He could remember ever bloody Tory hack and not say a word about Unamunno.  Who does he mention, who does he talk about?.  Gironella, for God's sake.  The man who wanted to be Franco's Sholokhov!  And failed!!  They don't give a damn about Europe, about history, about religion.  They're not real conservatives; they're just nouveau riche bastards who want to freeze society long enough to legitimate their ill-gotten gains.  They don't care a shit for us, don't care what we do or say, as long as we don't cause them any problems.  Worthless prats, they prefer toadies to comrades, and sycophancy to friendship."

        Just then Crock appeared.  "Oh, hello, Mr. Crock!  Yes, I'm having a wonderful time!  Nothing could be better!  Why, yes I certainly do appreciate the complementary calender you put in my hotel room.  Why thank you!"  Crock went to see if some Latvian exiles were reading his paper.  "Bastard."

        Quayle had arranged that the final night should be devoted to  entertainment, so Seinkewicz and Tarranques entered the ballroom that had been set aside for this purpose.  As they entered a vendor gave Seinkewicz a free book, with the title Why do so Many Intellectuals refuse to take us seriously?  To which the answer was because they were rotten selfish swine who rejected all the great values of their society out of envy, spite, malice and sexual inadequacy.  Seinkewicz looked at the back cover.  "Have you ever read any Bertolt Brecht?  Well, don't worry about it, because this book will show you that Brecht was a cheat, an adulterer, a liar, a thief, a betrayer of his friends, a Stalinist apologist who never washed.  So you never have to know who he was because only stupid artsy-fartsy pansies ever care who he was."  "Read about the times Rousseau couldn't get it up!"  "Learn about Tolstoy's venereal diseases!"  "The shocking truth about George Eliot's halitosis."  "This is the humorous, irreverent book which shows that all those novelists, poets, playwrights, musicians, painters, psychologists, politicians and philosophers, who have intimidated good conservative citizens were really just scum."

       Tarranques tried to laugh, and then stuttered quietly. "I always thought that 'Intellectuals' was the sort of book Gilbert Osmond would have written if he had less integrity."

        Seinkewicz dropped the book in a trashcan and he and Tarranques took their seats.  The curtain rose and six sparkling seventeen year old sisters appeared in short skirts with no panties, and tap danced before the overwhelmingly male assembly.  They started to sing a little ditty that Quayle and Crock had composed themselves:

        Edmund Burke, Superstar/Heaven know that you'll soon go far.  A short musical then took place on the struggles of the great eighteenth century parliamentarian, before Quayle took the stage and announced the highlight of the evening.

        "Gentlemen, tonight we have a special treat for you.  Through the power of modern technology we have been able to bring someone very special to be with us tonight.  For the first time in more than two hundred and eighty years the great philosopher and conservative political theorist John Locke will walk the earth."  There was a burst of dry ice, artificial fogs and gaudy green MTV limelights and John Locke, dressed in his university robes, materialized onto the stage.

        He took up the microphone.  "Thank you, thank you, I'm very glad to be here.  It's good to be back in London.  I mean there are so many things I've got to talk about.  But there's something I especially want to say.  I mean, it's a bit tactless, but it has to be said.  It's odd really.  The British liberal tradition, me, Hume, Smith, "Eddie-baby" Gibbon, Macaulay, Mill.  Isn't it interesting how none of us had really close relations with women.  And in regard to me, there's the confirmed bachelor bit, the long glances to my patron Shaftesbury, the taste for long hair and for long university robes.  I never seem to be wearing pants in any of the pictures there are of me."

        There was a pause.  "That's right boys.  I'm a flaming queen."  The father of Western liberalism tore off his robe to reveal him wearing a bra, some garters and the finest in fashionable French female underwear.  Ludwig von Mises could not have praised them more, since they were made in the finest Filipino sweatshops.  "Yes, I'm for life, liberty, and enough property so that I can get fucked in the ass."  He then started crooning old shanties about the joys of transvestism as the six singing seventeen-year old sisters joined him in lewd dances.  "Is this part of the act?" asked Tarranques.  Quayle himself was almost as pale as the day seven months in the future when he quite unreasonably thought that he was going to be indicted for securities fraud.

        Crock, however, managed to get something out of the whole fiasco when nine months later his paper held the headline "OUR BOY OUTSCREWS GALLIC TOFFS."  John Locke was quoted on the cover saying that while Descartes had only impregnated one of his servants he could out-do any effeminate frog, and had in fact just had six children (three boys, three girls) from the six singing sisters he had seduced right after the act.  Crock had an opinion poll conducted where 58% of respondents agreed that Locke's sexual vigor was one of the reasons why Great Britain was so much better than France, while David Pryce-Jones reminded them of the infamines of Vichy.

        Nobody in fact knew that the children were not John Locke's at all, but were in the fact the offspring of St. Thomas Aquinas.  The Holy Spirit told the full story to Albert Hermann:  while priestly celibacy was a wonderful thing, it had meant that the most intelligent people in the Middle Ages went into monasteries and didn't leave any children behind.  So the Holy Ghost decided that since Aquinas wasn't going to be using it, John Locke could borrow his sperm and have six children.

        "How very clever of you, Lord." said Hermann.

        "Oh, thank you.  Of course six tap-dancing eighteen year-old sisters are probably not the best mothers we could get for the children of one of the fathers of the church.  So I strongly suggest that the Flannery O'Connor Brigade do something."

         And so Albert Hermann did, but what he did was not known to either John Seinkewicz or to the Greek-Canadian Catholic lawyer who was stalking him.  After the Saturday evening entertainment had ended in considerable embarrassment, Seinkewicz went outside for a walk; partly because he needed a walk to clear his head, partly because he enjoyed taking walks where he could talk to his absent wife, and partly because Crock's minions wouldn't be worrying why he wasn't reading their paper.  It was raining, but that didn't bother Seinkewicz nearly as much as it would have bothered Vivian Chelmnickon.  It was soothing; he found London a much more natural city than Ottawa.  He walked a long way and decided to enter a peaceful middle-class neighborhood.  As he was noticing the convenience stores and the small restaurants and contrasting the tasteful houses with the rather soulless architecture of the towns he represented back in Canada, and just as he ruminated about the history the houses represented a strange mist come upon him unawares and surrounded him completely.

        The strangest thing about this whole incident in retrospect, thought Seinkewicz, was that he was not at all alarmed that the mists had transported him into a completely different time and place, where you could smell the sounds and here the scents, where the clouds were a light pale green while the yellow skies started to bleed a hideous shade of red when a storm approached.  ("Oh, not bloody Synaestesia," muttered Dramsheet, "that should have gone out with the Sitwells.")  This did not disturb him, he was only somewhat curious, just as he was not disturbed and only somewhat curious when he was confronted by strange beasts with the heads and wings of eagles, but the legs and trunks of lions.  For he realized that it was perfectly natural that he should be in the kingdom of the gryphons.

        "Welcome, John Seinkewicz." said the premier gryphon, a being who wore, as did his two colleagues, a coat of regal blue and a necklace of red and white stones, and who spoke with the nobility of the dead.  And he and the other gryphons led Seinkewicz into the ruins of a building and took him up a flight of broken, incomplete stairs.  The ruins were in such bad shape that most of the walls were gone and Seinkewicz could easily see tears of blood outside fall down from the green sky as the storm approached, while a smell that sounded like scratchings on a blackboard infiltrated his thoughts.  ("Bloody hell," thought Dramsheet, "we'll have to hear John Cooper Powys next.")  The head gryphon opened up one of the doors; as he did so, the effort caused another piece of the wall to fall apart.  The party entered what had once been a very large room, but several walls had been built here in order to deface its memory.  The room was dark, empty and filled with dust whose smell was like the sound of unoiled chairs.  It took a considerable amount of imagination for John Seinkewicz to realize that this partitioned room, deprived of all beauty, was once the grandest of monuments, the chamber of the Parliament of Gryphons.

        He could see the aristocracy of the gryphons, all in their tasteful coats of regal blue, and all wearing their necklaces of red and white stones sitting with proper grandeur in their fine, spartanly decorated seats, all of which had been taken away long ago.  The head gryphon spoke.  "Centuries ago the Lord of all the Heavens said that the two noblest animals on this world should join together and create a new being.  That is the origin of the gryphons, and the kingdom we created was one of the must just, fair and humane our world had ever known.  We spread the word of the Lord to the more benighted peoples on our borders, protected them from fire-breathing ravagers who came from the east, and created monasteries and libraries so that His Knowledge and Truth would be made clear to all.  Our greatest achievement was to follow in His path and to map out the heavens.  We gave this knowledge without reservation to the rest of the world, and it brought them out of sloughs of ignorance and misery.  And this is the place where all of it was done; the Parliament of Gryphons.  Here the finest and bravest of our dukes met; they elected our kings, dictated their virtues, checked their crimes, and deposed them when they became intolerable.  Such was the nobility of the assembly that no tyranny could ever take place; for as long as there was one brave gryphon of honour and courage, he could announce his objections and prevent all conspiracies with his single vote.  And for centuries we ruled this way."

        "But what has gone wrong?" asked Seinkewicz.

        "We were too arrogant, and corruption set in.  After corruption came decadence.  It was the coldest and cruelest of decadences for it was not spent in debauchery and sensuous pleasures; those whom Satan wishes to destroy he has indulge their virtues to the fullest.  We remained as austere and refined as we had before, outwardly there was no difference in our conduct.  Only later, only much later, and with many hesitations and recrimination, did we realize that too often we had used our successes to justify our conduct, and to denigrate those among us who had not been so successful.  We thought we could achieve perfection by petrifying ourselves into the past.  We quarrelled, we debated petty issues, we oppressed our subjects and we fell into decline.  Our enemies plotted against us and they used our parliament as a weapon.  The country became sterile and cold and our enemies manipulated us into liquidating our own existence."

        Seinkewicz was reminded of the smell that sounded like scratching on blackboards.  He asked what it was.

        "Corpses.  We are burning them on funeral pyres.  After centuries of foreign domination we rebelled.  We won for a time, and then we were attacked again.  After long and arduous battle we won, but so many of us had been brutally murdered that God Himself could not count the corpses.  We had to burn them for health reasons, unknown and uncounted.  Look out at this wasteland; it was once a metropolis with more than a million souls, one of the oldest and most beautiful cities on our world.  But it will not survive your life, and no other city will survive the life of your son.  We gryphons have many powers, we can use our wings to fly above the heavens; we have great skill, strength and cunning, for we can draw roses from the earth and we eat rubies and diamonds to sharpen our teeth.  But our finest power was that of memory; a conclave of three gryphons such as the three you see before was enough to bring people and memories from the past; in times of crisis we could summon our greatest statesmen and ask their advice, while little children could summon the taste of sugars and sweets and old couples summon past moments of love and passion.  This was our greatest gift, and we kept practicing it in secret even when we were under the rule of foreign princes.  But now, after this devastation, we can only use our powers to let outsiders like you see through our memories the grand reflections of our past.  When the three of us try to remember our massacred love ones, we can see the image form, we can see them materialize, but as we reach out to touch them, they scream and shatter into pieces.  For we have lost the Casket of Dreams.

        "And that is why we have brought you here John Seinkewicz.  Our world dies in pain and grief; by the time our generation is over there will be no-one left to replace us.  But when our country was conquered so long ago, they stole our Casket of Dreams, the box that all had our wishes, pleasures, childish fancies, silly dreams and wonderful hopes, the box that held all our imaginations.  They did not keep it long, it was not meant for the likes of them, and it was soon lost beyond all hope of recovery.  Only much later did we learn that it had ended up on your own world.  Somewhere, it is there.  You must find it, and return it to one of the Lord's messengers, for it was not intended to be used by the people of your planet."

        Seinkewicz and the three gryphons left the parliament buildings and walked across wastelands overgrown with wild grasses.  Every few hundred meters there were the vestiges of paving stones, remains of houses, and other signs of what must have been a city.  Above them the sky was filled with bloody tears.  Another gryphon spoke.  "These storms are more frequent and more deadly.  Every time they kill more and more of us.  We must find shelter quickly."  As raindrops that sounded like the smell of abattoirs fell, the quartet come to a large concrete block on the ground.  One of the gryphons lifted it, and the four descended the stairs into the ground below.   A lamp was lit, and Seinkewicz found himself in a small room crowded with books and the few remaining valuables of the gryphons.  It was the only opulent room left for them, and the premier gryphon reached into a box.  "This is a farewell gift" and he handed Seinkewicz a small globe about the size of a coffee mug.  It was a very strange globe, for it was completely colorless:  it was not even transparent and Seinkewicz twisted it around in his hands and peered into it to try to find what was there.  Slowly a milky whiteness spread across the surface, which slowly settled into the bottom of the globe.  Then he recognized it; it was snow and he could see the night and the moon and the forests and the pikes of Crakow in the distance as he realized that this was a scene of the Poland he had never saw and never would be able to see, and as Avare's blood flowed over the snow John Seinkewicz began to cry for the first time since the birth of his son, and while the mists began to rise as John held a piece of purest Poland in his hands, and through his tears and through the mists and through his memories he remembered Warsaw streetcars he had never seen, as he could now read the children's books burned as counter-revolutionary by the Communists, he could now taste the innocent kitsch of purged recipes, he could now sneeze from the pollen of Polish flowers, he could now dance the wedding dances that Louis Dramsheet had never heard of, he could now hear the special flutes and strange violins and happy crows, he could now see the stained glass that had survived the Mongols and the Nazis, see the robes of virtuous cardinals atoning for Kielce, and see but did not see a box made of yellowish-turquoise metal, with shimmering triangles engraved on the top...

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