Chinese Spice Box
"Of course it's not fashionable. If we wanted to be fashionable we wouldn't be accountants."
"But you're soaking wet. You'll get pneumonia."
"Nonsense. I've already gotten it by sitting fully clothed in a
hot tub, so I can't get it twice.
thing that would happen is if I came
down with a cold, and I have no objection to receiving all the colds the world can offer. But don't mind me,
go right ahead with your decadent and
sensuous lifestyle and simply pretend I'm not here. You could
have even sex with that rather stupid
beside you. I wouldn't notice, though
"This woman is my wife!"
"Oh dear, don't tell me you're one of those liberals who think that just because you're married you can have sex. Not that I, as a devout Jew, have anything against marital sex. Quite the contrary: no religion recognizes and places the proper highest value on marital sex as Judaism. No other religion treats the subject with the maturity and profundity the subject deserves. No other religion gives the female orgasm with the proper respect, especially Islam. All of Judaism treats marital sex as a positive good, in complete contrast to the life-denying dogmas of other faiths. But there is a distinction between valuing sex and actually engaging in it. Particularly on the part of people who have never considered the subtle, complex philosophical ramifications, and in fact show an alarming shallowness about the subject. Certainly people like you, who incessantly talk about their feelings, smoke illegal narcotics from time to time, actually like E.L. Doctorow and Graham Greene, and would never cover Alger Hiss with excrement even if you had a perfectly good opportunity to do so. And you're so obvious about the Song of Songs. But as I said, don't mind me at all. I will simply sit here and read elegant and thought provoking articles in Commentary. I will read profound articles about the great problems in civilization and the need to confront the growing decadence. And you, in your turn, can contribute to that decadence all you want."
That same thursday evening Ignatius Wilentz was at a meeting and was conducting an exam to Mary Lightfeathers via cellular phone. "Talmudic exegesis. Question One. Offer thirty-seven reasons why lizard-flambé can be served for dinner."
"But it can't be. The Torah specifically forbids it."
"No, Miss Sarahson, that is a reason against serving it. The aim of the exercise is to provide thirty-seven reasons for serving it. Please try again, Miss Sarahson."
the same time Ms. Roda Ellen Van P--- was having a conversation with the official from the Thai embassy.
To be precise she was chatting with him
as he hung upside down, outside the apartment window, and she was chatting with him with a large machete in her
hand. If it seems odd that we have
not mentioned Ms. Roda Ellen Van P--- for the fast few chapters, perhaps it would be wise to reveal that in fact
we have seen her several times as the
Master of the Marthas, the Master and the Margarita, Martha and the Muffins, and have some
it was not
"Uh, no I haven't."
"Well Jezebel was an evil queen of
"I'm telling you this because there's no way on earth this could ever happen to me. What I am more concerned about is your secret conversation with my maid where you said that she should dump 'this crazy woman' and go off and elope with you."
"Oh did I say that?"
"You certainly did. My maid's lingerie is wiretapped, so I could hear you very clearly."
"Well I must have been joking. But is it wrong to want to make her a honest woman?"
"She's already an honest woman."
"Then she can make me an honest man."
"I don't see why that's necessary. Personally I think that
hanging you upside-down twenty-two feet
ground where you would surely break your
neck if I cut this rope with this machete would you make a model of
veracity. In fact I'm sure of it, I've done
tests. But you seem to
misunderstand the nature of my mermaid soap. Once
it is mass-produced it shall make
sexuality complete irrelevant. Hundreds
of millions of woman shall be liberated from the voracious demands of their husbands. When I first
met my maid she was working as a waitress in
one of the more tactful brothels in
"I can't believe you're a citizen of
"My dear embassy official, I'm as much a citizen of the Thai republic as you are."
"Yes, it is, isn't it. How unfortunate." And she gave a huge hack at the rope with her machete.
"Kindly don't scream. It will wear out your vocal cords and will not bring you any assistance. So you simply must understand that if you touch a pubic hair with your head I will simply have no choice but to kill you."
It was not easy for the embassy official to form an argument with all his blood rushing to his head, but "Aren't you being ungrateful? After all the work I've done to make sure that your landlord doesn't get his hands on your maid."
"I don't see why I should be. You only want her for yourself."
"Perhaps she wants me for herself." But then Miss Van P--- gave another hack at the rope, and he promptly backtracked. "ThoughIcouldbeverymuchmistaken!"
Miss Van P--- smiled. "It would appear that you've learned your lesson."
"So are you going to untie me and let me down from here?"
"No, of course not. That would be too extreme. I think I shall let you remain there for a few more hours. I have some work to do, and I simply can't let myself be disturbed." And she closed the window and went back to her desk.
revelations had returned to Vivian Chelmnickon in the aftermath of Dr. Roget's visit. In his mind there
were images of an angel flying over the
Adrian Verrall had, since his return from
At about that evening Genet
Vovelle made a
telephone call from
"It is, but my measles makes it very difficult to sleep. I mean I had just overcome my third outbreak of chicken pox when I came down with the measles."
"You realize father this is punishment for your sins. I know that sounds disrespectful and deliberately rude, but that's because it's meant to be. From what I've learned the mother of your new child is younger than either of us. What is the name of our new sibling?"
"Your baby brother is named after his father. He's a rather intelligent baby though he's only a few weeks old, and I personally think he's very attractive."
"No doubt he is. I myself can't wait to see a photograph of him, so you must send us one as quickly as possible. Well I'm actually fairly busy so I can only hope that you keep suffering horribly for your adultery. Have you ever undergone mumps?"
"No, I haven't."
"Well, you soon will. Goodbye father."
"I know you'll always side with your mother. She was always with
you as a child, and even now in
But Pandora then hung up on her father.
Constantine Rudman was sitting on his couch, thinking about Vivian Chelmnickon, or rather lolling on his couch brooding about Vivian Chelmnickon. He could not think about his homework, or about his essays or even about the grove of thorns. Only Chelmnickon, only how he whimpered whenever he remembered their meetings, only how he always made a fool of himself whenever he appeared to him, only how he always raved against Chelmnickon behind his back, only how he would sneak a peak at Chelmnickon's works and give vicious, unfair summaries of them.
what about that piece in The Times literary Supplement? How dare that bold fashionable pipsqueak say that the
European left was pro-Brezhnev?
Not that he gave any evidence, but of course bold courageous people
to give such pedestrian things as facts
or evidence or even logic when sneering at the left. All those
sleazy bastards. How they claim how
smells again, the stinks again, I must suffer them all again, must suffer them even though I do not experience
them. Must realize again and again
the pettiness of our humanity. "Man's a rotter, and his critics
even more so." What we need is
misanthropy with a human face, not liberalism with
a human facade, no more iron fists in
velvet revolution gloves. I don't
understand love, I've never experienced it, I can't imagine it. That's not it, I can only imagine it, for I've
never seen anyone like it. My
parents didn't love each other, and I didn't even love them, but of course that's so obvious. You create an
abstraction and you giddily search for
flaws to show it couldn't possible exist. But it doesn't exist,
it's just a euphemism for lust and sexual
faith, covered over with social mores
and economic coercion. Are men more likely to beat their wives
when they're pregnant? Or maybe
another media rumour that we'll soon all
forget we ever thought. And isn't it all biological, or
moderately biological enough whatever the
euphemisms the biological determinists
have? Women are unequal because biologists say they're unequal so any equality is impossible. Or
they're morally superior, like the psychologists
say, and men are such weak-willed fools any equality is impossible.
Or both sexes are equal, but
they're such wretched people that only
philosophers far away from women, like Nietzsche, are any good.
I'm supposed to be a socialist, but I'd
truth from on high, even if it was only
that everyone are rats and they should be ground to power in the generators of my Maclaurin series. Why
do I have to live in a world of flesh
when We can live in a world of lead? Of course, it's so obvious,
it takes so much courage, so much
It's not our fault that people live in
poverty and sickness and disease in the midst of our wealthy society, it's their fault. It's not our fault
that despite our repeated interventions
and our callous racism and our greed that
When suddenly his arm was twisted around his back and
Keeping track of the boring proceedings around him Ignatius Wilentz continued his examination. "Question Number Two: Discuss the influence of The Song of Songs/The Song of Solomon on the life and philosophy of Baruch Spinoza."
Madame Vovelle was reviewing the correspondence of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, and she remembered an incident in her past. She had been invited to address a congregation one fine Sunday in Montréal, where the cardinal himself would be there to hear her speak. The congregation greeted her politely and applauded as she approached the rostrum.
"I could not really come up with a talk before you today, so I thought that I would talk about my impressions of this congregation. And the first thing that strikes me is how well dressed you all are. You are all in your best suits and dresses and, and, and....
"And I can't stop thinking how utterly appalling this all is. Do
you really think that God cares the
slightest about how you dress? That He intends
these Sunday services to be some sort
of Fashion show? It's not that He
wants you to appear in blue jeans and casual clothes, because clearly that's the sort of laziness only the
"No, thank you. It was kind of you to ask though."
"Oh. All right." And Madame Vovelle sat down and the service proceeded as usual.
Vanessa was remembering the love letters her cousin-in-law read to her during his first frantic Christmas without Natasha. They were like Aunt Sarah's letters, less moving than amusing, and less amusing than uninteresting. Typical lines were "Your goblet is like a navel that never lacks apricot punch," and "Your hips cover me with kisses, your wine is better than love." She remembered how crushed Giles was at her laughter, more sarcastic derision, and she remembered the first time she saw her uncle laughing at Sarah's letters. "How can you treat her like that?" she asked rhetorically, since she already knew how a brother could treat a sister. "I'm sorry, but there are limits to compassion, and there is only so much sympathy you can have for people who just breed and bleed and advertise their misery." She wondered if this sort of heartlessness was endemic to her family. If it was, then it was a strange sort of heartlessness, since Ignatius sent considerable amounts of money to his sister, and tried to arrange all sorts of jobs with assorted Israeli friends. True, the money often got lost, or it ended up in post offices that spontaneously burst into flames, while the friends who were supposed to give a good job to Felix Simricky had the bad habit of suddenly dying, being run over by camels, assassinated by Syrian terrorists, being arrested for treason and suffering from intense spells of dyslexia. And everytime he heard about this, Ignatius wrote another check, and couldn't stop laughing.
got up from the floor to notice three men who had somehow
materialized in the darkness.
The first two wore black suits, with large
floppy hats, and with the strange accents that could be heard from their titterings, they seemed like parodies of
Italian mobsters, though
The leader stepped forward, while another man close behind him flicked a switchblade in and out. Behind both of him was an old, silent man whose hands were behind his back. He clearly had the most dignity. The leader spoke. "I call myself Marinetti. Over here, Gabriel's parents called themselves D'Annunzio."
"You were intellectuals who supported Mussolini."
"It's so nice to meet literate Canadians, don't you think so, Gabriel?"
D'Annunzio shrugged, thinking that Canadians had little to offer him.
"But you're all supposed to be dead! What are you doing in my apartment?"
"Why we're here for the same reason that a horde of insurance agents invaded
D'Annunzio closed his switchblade for the last time and from his sleeve took out
"We've been waiting for this for centuries. Waiting for damnation, waiting for the climax, when a conspiracy shall murder someone who is already dead. And on that day hope itself, false liberalism itself, humanitarianism itself, will die a wheezing, petty, self-pitying and valueless death. And we will take over in its place. Oooo, Gaabrieel?"
D'Annunzio moved to the third man, while Marinetti went to introduce him. "Constantine Rudman, may I introduce to you Vilfredo Pareto. I would like to say more, but Mr. Pareto can't respond. That's because we cut out his tongue. You wouldn't happened to have any knowledge of this man?"
"I vaguely know who he is." replied
"Allow me to tell you more. Pareto here is one of the founders of
modern sociology. He is also
one of this
century's foremost anti-Marxists, known
for his work on the circulation of elites and the impossibility of a real democracy. He is also known for his
pungent comments on such sickly phenomena
as humanitarianism and pacifism. So we naturally thought that he would make a perfect fascist. But we
were wrong. You see, what did he do when
Il Duce took power? He ran off to
contempt in Pareto's eyes belied Marinetti's smug assurances as the latter checked his handcuffs, while
D'Annunzio removed the tourniquet from
Rudman's arm. Marinetti turned back to Rudman. "The problem
with torture is its aesthetic side. I mean so many torturers
have no sense of their artistic
possibilities in their work. Some castrations
here, broken limbs there, electroshock and cigarette burns, it's all so ordinary. That is why I am one
the most resolute opponents of torture
in the world; I just can't let worthless amateurs go mucking
about. You see, I have a
dream. I have a
vision. I see today a world of wretched people,
of people who either have to be led,
or to be prevented from leading. I
see a world of malcontents spreading toxin with their stilted bodies. I see women malcontents,
crab-faced lesbians, seeking to emasculate men
with sociology textbooks. So many
ugly people producing so many ugly thoughts.
And I say to myself, this does not have to exist. For I see a new world, still filled with ugly people, but
these people are marked, separated,
segregated, unable to spread harm or semen throughout the generations, and on their backs, or on their
fronts, lie the masterpieces of torturers.
Consider Pareto here. I have managed to create two separate sorts of acids. One creates a green pus
when used on the body, the other a yellow
pus. Combine both of the two, and make enough slits on his back,
and I can give you the flag of
"Well, if that's your attitude, then you won't get to see it. We did come here for other reasons. Gabriel, please." D'Annunzio retrieved a suitcase and opened it before Marinetti, who took out the contents. "We have all sorts of wonderful things here, and we're eager with anticipation to try them out. Here we have an old-fashioned camera. American, I think. Gabriel, do you know what year this comes from?"
"Yes, 1922. That's very likely. Of course it's supposed to
be attached to a tripod, but that wouldn't
the suitcase." Marinetti placed
it in the far corner of the kitchen counter. "Ooo. I like
this. Castor oil, the all-purpose
medicine of the future. But don't worry, we shan't
give you a dose. Rocks from
D'Annunzio extracted what at first appeared to be some rope, but what was in fact a noose. "Fine craftsmanship, don't you think? Of course electric chairs are so much quicker, so we shouldn't be sentimental. But this noose goes back a long way, back to the last century in fact. It was this very noose that in 1891 hanged a Mrs. A. Clare. Naturally you've never heard of the woman, but we consider her execution to be one of the greatest moments in Anglo-Saxon justice. And, of course, it's so much better than a tourniquet."
"What?" but before
"You fight us? Your country doesn't have the will, you're simply soft wax that any demagogue can inscribe on whatever he likes. And you just want a talmudist who will inscribe you in her own image."
"Well, suppose I do..." But then Marinetti extracted a box of chocolates from his suitcase. "It
would be better if you had some sweets. Allow
me to offer you some." Still
dazed and on his knees
"Now I consider that an insult!" said Marinetti, and he was
justified, because the chocolates were
actually quite delicious and not at all harmful, even
if you considered the sugar
content. "It's such a pity you're so suspicious
because I think you're just the
sort of person whom I'd like to give all
my cherries. Well I'm afraid we simply have to go now." And
the three of them simply vanished,
leaving nothing behind except the 1922 camera on
the far kitchen counter that
same time, in the
flat above Lucian Rudman and the one below Ms.
Roda Ellen Van P---, Vanessa Wilentz had
stopped remembering her relatives and
was working on her post-modernist project.
"We behold a purge of lilacs, bursting through the snow. In a sea
of white we see toboggan
tracks." She had never seen the countryside, except on television, except for a skiing trip that
the school took her on, except when she
"For my professor, solipsism is very fashionable." She wouldn't include that in her final copy, but
was true that the professor's all time,
absolutely favourite novel this month was
"Imagine an infinity of mirrors creating infinity of
reflections." No, cross that
out, that was too much sucking up to the professor. Write the first thing that comes into your
head. "The talmud notes that there is nothing
worse for a bride to lose her groom
before her wedding night." Why had
she written that? Was it even
true? It was an appropriately sonorous statement,
but she might have gotten it from
reading the Jewish response to missionary
Woman's nature is twisted and molded by men to fit their own
desires. Now all that she needed is
a snappy line to
summarize all this. Think of something.
Think of something feminine. Or not so feminine, try some easy
neutered paradoxes for the Isaiah
Sexuality. Women do not particularly care for homosexuals, but
men can't live without lesbianism.
all the feminists who really get under
their skin as dykes and drool all over their love-making.
porro unum est necessarium for every pornographic
magazine and video. In a "Big-Matt Arnold" sort of way, with a fetish for moderation, complete with
sex-manuals written by Jeremy Bentham, lingerie
made out of Hayek and trade statistics, garters from Wilfred Laurier himself and Edmund Burke's own
personal whip. An orgasm of decadent decency,
pity the denizens of
"Economics is the dismal science. The leaden science." Ok,
you've plagiarized Carlyle, now
what? How about a very long and scintillating paragraph
on the topic in question. Then
back to the purple prose. There's some
very interesting metonymies that can be looked at. Note the
change in point in view. Keep an eye
clock. "Falling through the rainbow is a fall
of leaden rain." Try not to
use rainbows, they're too common a metaphor. You have
to use it in a new and unprecedented
manner. "A league of accountants carry
rainbows in their suitcases."
No, too cute. "I can give you segments of
rainbows wholesale." No, too
whimsical. "I strangled my bride with rainbows."
A little too
grotesque. It brings to mind some sort of moor (In
"Leaden smugness keeps us from seeing the sorrows of the rainbows." No, that's not right. Almost rhymes, and that shouldn't be the case. Time for another irony. "We can not live without lead, just as we cannot live without kitsch, for to try to transcend lead, to build a world without lead, is this not a typically leaden task?" Great, we sound like the Democratic Party with too much caffeine. "Men are angels," make that men and women are angels. Or perhaps we should just let it be men, they deserve it after all. "Men are angels, but angels with leaden wings, they seek to attain the heights, but their wings draw them back to earth. And the harder they try to fly the crueler the descent." That sounds good. At least "the crueler the descent" is better than "the harder they fall." But it wasn't really true, since she didn't believe in original sin. How about this? "All of us could be angels, were it not for the wings of lead we placed on ourselves to imitate them." That's much better. Or slightly better.
"For centuries we purged the lilacs with leaden scythes." Not
bad, it sounds very hip, it's a nice
metaphor for the European fear of nature up until
the Renaissance. (Or was there a
European fear of nature before the Renaissance?
Was this something seen on a documentary, in a flawed work of popular history, or in a real history that was
15 years old and now out of date?
God, it's like the historiography of the witch hunts; you crash and burn there all the time.) Anyway, it
lacks something, you need more analysis.
Well actually you don't really in CanLit, since does anyone really think a pipsqueak like Atwood could
even catch Adorno's stray contempt?
The trouble with you, said
A counter-response, an actual response to what you're supposed to be reading, instead of metaphorical jabs at all the inconvenient places. Try some place exotic. But what is exotic? To the European mind all foreigners are lascivious. Actually, it's completely wrong to say Jews are neurotic. They're just serious people with a taste of irony. Why did you think that? It's like when you were fourteen and all you couldn't concentrate and all you could think about were the blue purples and the purple blues. And then there'd be times you were staring at into space and then you'd think Ashes. Or Toboggans. But try to think of someplace which isn't a substitute for your sexual failures, someplace that doesn't hide your basic dullness, somewhere where allusions aren't dancing through your head. Imagine a place where you are. What would it be like? Try to concentrate. Try not to think of lilacs, rainbows or lead. Put pen to paper (or fingers to computer) and start writing.
"She got off the ship when it docked into the harbor. After walking down the gangplank and moving to the shops that clustered near the wharf she was accosted by a fortune-teller." A fortune-teller? That sounds too Arabian. Perhaps she could get off in Marseilles. "The teller flattered her and offered to look at her palms for a pittance. She laughed and accepted, and the ugly old man peered at her hands with a magnifying glass. 'Ah' he said. 'You are a woman who dreams her own dreams.' 'And who doesn't?' 'You'd be surprised. I see a lover in your past. You left him one Friday evening. Why?'"
Yes, why had she? She stopped writing. Why had she left him that rainy Friday? The answer was simple. She wanted to go to the synagogue and he didn't. But that wasn't the full reason. He was the first person who had ever gotten close to her, the first person who got into her mind. And once there, he began to remake it to suit himself. It was not that he was openly anti-Jewish, he was far too tactful a gentile to say things like that. It was more in the way he always seemed to have tickets for some special event that just happened to fall on a mildly crucial holiday. It was the way he just kept talking for just a little too long and little too harshly about some wonderful religion of love and tolerance. It was the way he laughed a little too loud at her sneers at Peter, especially when Peter was being very pompous and smug and really, really deserved them. There was always the strange feeling that he was trying too cleverly to convince her that she was too intelligent and too serious for her own good. To everybody else, including her Jewish friends, he was a fine, decent, loving human being, and her complaints, badly presented and unconsciously confused, were just part of her own sour and unsexually insatiable nature. They could not see how he was trying to assimilate her, into some sort of cotton-candy fluffiness, behind which there was nothing at all, a special sort of happy nihilism.
She asked for more in the relationship, in an attempt to dominate him and control him more closely. She never would do that again, because it brought her nothing, because he was happy to fill all her desires, because it gave him the opportunity to corrupt her, to bribe her. She deliberately became more erratic and eccentric; he applauded it, saying it made her more feminine. He was completely disarming: she never kicked him in the shins even once. He even dropped hints to her parents that he might convert to Judaism. But she saw he had no intention of doing so, that he would rather charm rabbis and cantors and leave her only a hollow shell. She gave ultimatums, he accepted them all with good cheer. It was only when he had arranged for the two of them to go to a concert of her favourite band that she suddenly developed the irrational idea of suddenly demanding that they stop everything and go to her synagogue for services. It was completely irrational; Vanessa barely went there at all, and there were only a few minutes before the concert began. Naturally he refused, and so she left him and appeared in the temple soaking wet and in tears. She cried so hard and so loud that the ushers requested her to leave. She spent two absolutely miserable days until she found out on Monday that he had already started seeing someone else. After that she was always a little suspicious about pacifists.
"'I left him. He wasn't good for me. What else do you have to tell me?' 'I see a great amount of frustration in your life. You possess...'" Careful, now, we don't want to flatter ourselves too much, do we? "'you possess great gifts, but you can't use them for any good. Nothing you do will serve anyone any good. Your life is marginal, and irrelevant.' 'You're being too vague, I want to know more.' 'Before the moon rises today everything will be crystal clear to you, but it will be far too late. Failure is inevitable, and it is senseless to resist. Such gifts are ultimately worthless, I have known many people who have done far better without a trace of them. Allow me a prayer to my many gods and to the great mother, allow me this old barbarian custom and let me partake of this sacred rotgut. Allow me to pick me teeth with my holy toothpicks, there, that's so much better.' And the fortune-teller took out a strange lotion, which smelled and looked like moldy, putrescent fat, and a bit like urine as well. He eagerly started to rub it over his face, as he took a swig of his rotgut.
"Then, without warning, he started rubbing it on her hands. 'What are you doing?' 'It is part of my faith. I am commanded to smear this holy oil on all whose palms I read.' 'But it's disgusting!' 'You are wrong, it is actually quite common-place and it soon becomes innocuous. See, already the smell has dissipated, and soon the stickiness will evaporate as well. I must now go, for I have many other palms to read before the day is done. Until the day when there is only the rack and the brothel! Farewell!'
"And then he left, and she decided to keep walking the streets of Marseilles. It was already past mid-afternoon and as she walked past the busy cafes and newsstands she realized she could no longer smell the lotion. She laughed, and pirouetted down a side street, she started to clap and to whistle and it was only when she was far from the cafes did she notice that a child was watching her.
"The child was a small beggar girl. She was pale, but she had not been maimed by her parents in order to attract more sympathy. She was still dressed in ragged clothes and there was dirt all over her. But she was looking at her, not asking for any money. And then there was another small little girl, followed by a little boy, just as poor and as dirty as the first one. 'I didn't know there were beggars in Marseilles.' The children smiled innocently, they were still small enough not to be cursed with the knowledge of what was to come. And more beggar children appeared to join them, and still more. They barely talked, they just muttered a little, and shifted their weight from foot to foot. Occasionally one of them began to cry, and she wished she had some sort of handkerchief to wipe away their tears. And still more children came up, and still more, until there were so many in front of her it seemed that there were more beggar children than they were people in Marseilles.
"'This is so strange. Is Marseilles not a rich and wealthy city full of humane and decent people? How can there be so many of you?'" Well, come to to think of it, there was some kind of big Socialist corruption scandal there sometime in the past decade. And wasn't Le Pen increasing in influence there? Anyway, what happens next? So far you don't look too much like a plaster saint. "She only had traveler's cheques, and not nearly enough of them to give to all the children. Her only spare change had been given to the fortune-teller and to the some of the shops she had stopped by. 'I wish I could give you something, but I don't have anything.' All she could do was ruefully pat the children on the head.
"But it turned out that was just what they wanted. That was all they wanted, and in fact that was all they really needed. After she patted the first little girl, the second little girl came up after her, and then the first little boy. They all came, each in turn, one after the other, politely and quietly, but when they left, they smiled, they actually seemed cleaner, they looked healthier and even a bit fatter. And then they started to skip, jump ropes appeared out of nowhere, and a few hesitant hops began to be made, followed by some reluctant giggles, and then there suddenly burst a sea of hopscotches, of silly dances and spinning around. And as a crowd of adults came around to stare at the bemused woman who couldn't help patting beggar children on the head the children started to skip and sing and whirl around in dances like fevered dervishes." Must suppress the obvious temptation to comment on how particularly fevered dervishes whirl. Bet Algerian dervishes have a really mean whirl. Quite vicious, actually. "The children were so active and vibrant that the crowd was more than a little disturbed, fearing that the children, their own children, whom they loved very much, which was why the children didn't ask for money (they were too proud) but whom their parents couldn't help but dress them in rags, they feared that the children were going to get ill or seriously get wounded by their mad spinning. But they could soon relax as the children's spinning stopped accelerating, reached its peaks and started to slow down. The sun was beginning to set in the west, but the moon had yet to rise as the children's laughter quieted, as they turned and skipped and hopped and raced even more slowly, as she finished patting the last one of the beggar children, while the children seemed to freeze, to wind down and then to stop in position like run-down automatons.
"There was a low murmur from the crowd." Perhaps that should be made an extremely nervous murmur, or a low chorus of disapproval. "What had happened to their children? A few of them moved forward as not all the children had frozen yet. They looked into their eyes and saw that their eyes had gone blank, and that their lids were closing. Their skin was cool, yet shiny to the touch, the parents could see their own reflections in their children's cheeks, and the dirt on them fell away completely and as their rags turned into fine dresses and pants. And the children's skin, paled by lack of food, or burned by too much sun, started to assume a uniform shade, sort of like gold, then like false gold, and then the yellow started to turn an unprecedented shade of grey, heavy and dense, as the children were completely suffused with a covering of lead.
"The parents were horrified, but before they could do anything, an evil mist began to appear, a cloud of noxious leaden dust appeared, gassing many of the parents. The survivors turned back and looked at her, helpless, in a valley of leaden statues. 'Kill her!' And she had no choice but to look up at the risen moon and run through the valley and into hiding. The crowd chased after her, but even though they did not catch her, for the rest of her life she had to keep running, she could never stay in any chosen place, be it a sewer, a cave, a rubbish dump, before she was found again and had to flee for her life once more.
"And so she never knew that the statues did not just stay in the center of Marseilles, but that because of her prayers, one day long after her death the real benevolence of her act shone through, and the lead fell off and the children were reborn, their dirt seemed to shine, their rags were now something less shameful. For these new children were no longer poor beggars, but they were not angels either, and they spent the rest of their days helping themselves and helping others, until the end of time."
Fat chance. Well she obviously couldn't give this to her professor. Best to use the neatest images and confine oneself to facts and hard analysis, post-modernist puffery be damned.
Meanwhile, the meeting that Ignatius Wilentz was attending had come to an inglorious and inconclusive end. There was still time to ask Miss Lightfeathers one more question. "Talmudic Exegesis, Question number three. Do a Deconstructionist interpretation of the Talmud."
Apartments was in
a nice neighborhood, and it was a perfectly respectable
place for a papal emissary to have
as his headquarters while in Canada.
There was a certain charm and innocence in the whole place as midnight
approached. In apartment 208 five year
old Timothy Walters slept peacefully, thanks to Dr. Hermann's intervention to the Holy Spirit to cure his
whopping cough. In apartment 217 Mr. and Mrs Avalon were spending
their first night together in many months
direct result of Hermann's prayers.
In apartment 307 three college students were celebrating the imminent
end of term, which had gone off so much
because God had recently granted them
great powers of concentration. All across the building people
were sleeping peacefully or dancing
with hope in their hearts and love in
their souls. All across the building, with the exception of one apartment. In
Book 3: Venus and Wagner: The
Library of Heaven
Conspiracy and Matrimony