Saturday, November 13, 2004

20 things you have to believe

"20 things you have to believe to be a Republican today"

1. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.


2. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.



3. Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.


4. "Standing Tall for America" means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.


5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all humankind without regulation.




6. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.



7. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.


8. Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.



9. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.


10. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.


11. HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at heart.


12. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.


13. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.



14. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.


15. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is a solid defense policy.





16. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.




17. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.



18. You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a right to adopt.




19. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the 1980s is irrelevant.



20. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist; but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.




Joe Democrat


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. He can only afford to drink four ounces a day because his tree-hugging governor raised the sales tax for the fifth time in four years to pay for gov't run Daycare, the Playboy channel for incarcerated sex-offenders, free needle-exchange programs, social services for illegal aliens, and condom-vending machines in preschool.

But he savors every drop, for next year he'll only be permitted to buy decaffeinated coffee because FDA testing found that force-feeding lab rats 20 gallons of coffee per day raised their cancer rate by .0003% per thousand.

With his first swallow of water, he rations his daily intake of medication. He can't afford all his meds because some stupid commie liberal ambulence-chaser drove pharmaceutical costs through the roof with frivolous law suits.

His meds are subsidized by his employer's medical plan because some liberal closed shop union workers fought their employers in order to garnish employee wages so that Joe would labor under the illusion that someone else is picking up the tab when in fact his employer is reaching into Joe's own back pocket.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is unsafe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for limited liability laws so that if anyone dies of food poisoning, the meat packing industry will pay a fine and pass the cost on to the customer.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient because some
crybaby liberal thought that he was too stupid to know that imbibing a pint of shampoo might be harmful to his health.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. Joe begins to cough, choke, and gasp for breath because some
environmentalist wacko liberal fought for passage of the Kyoto treaty, allowing Third World countries to contaminate the world air supply with carbon monoxide.

Joe doesn't dare go out at night because some
environmentalist wacko liberal lawmaker forbad the spraying or draining of malarial swamps.

Joe lost his first home to wildfire because some
environmentalist wacko liberal lawmaker forbad the thinning old growth forrest land.

His dad used to take the train to work. But when the Federal highway system destroyed our once-magnificent train system, Joe had to resort to the filthy, crime-ridden subway system because some fancy-pants liberal fought to disarm law-abiding citizens so that street gangs could mug commuters, then cop a plea based on post-traumatic slavery disorder.

Joe begins his work day. Joe's dad used to support his family at a middle class lifestyle on a single income. But it now takes two or three incomes to do the work of one because liberal bureaucrats drove up the cost of doing business through overregulation and usurious corporate taxation.

If Joe gets bored with his job, he can fake an injury and collect workman's comp., retiring to the slopes of Aspen to recuperate because some stupid liberal didn't think that employees might try to bilk the system.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal thought that financial institutions should be able to defraud their customers and then file for bankruptcy, thereby shielding the pension and severance pay of board members while sticking the taxpayer with the tab.

Joe has to pay his federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided to subsidize college education so that universities, freed from competitive pressure, no longer had to keep tuition costs down.

Joe had the GPA and SAT scores to get into Harvard, but he had to settle for a community college because racial quotas kept him out while admitting inner city students who couldn't read or write, but had mastered multiple techniques of fitting a condom in high school sex-ed.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. He has to practice defensive driving because some America-hating liberal had alcoholism classified as a legally-protected disease and disability.

He arrives at his boyhood home. The countryside used to be a quiet, leisurely, pristine place to live until the Federal highway system and force bussing overran the bucolic countryside with suburban sprawl as urbanites fled the cities.

His family used to live off the land, in harmony with nature, until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification, powered by fossil fuel consumption.

He is happy to see his dad. Dad will be the last generation to retire on Social Security because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberals regularly raided the SS trust-fund to subsidize social programs, instead of allowing workers to invest their own earnings in compound interest-bearing accounts.

Joe's Dad was forced into early retirement, without a pension, because some
environmentalist wacko liberal discovered a snail-darter in the cooling system of the local nuclear plant, where his dad used to work.

Joe's uncle used to be a cattle rancher until he was driven out of business because some
environmentalist wacko liberal lawmaker kept him from shooting wolves that preyed on his livestock.

Joe's cousin used to work at the local lumber mill until he was laid off because some
environmentalist wacko liberal discovered a spotted owl on timber land.

Joe's relatives used to receive assistance from the local chapter of the Salvation Army until it had to close its doors because some liberal civil libertarian sued it for refusing to offer domestic partnership benefits to all its employees.

Wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberals also invented a Constitutional right to an abortion, resulting in 45 million fewer workers to support the retirees.

In addition, wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberals promoted SS so that no able-bodied, adult child should ever be saddled with the onerous burden of caring for the elderly parents who devoted the best years of their lives caring for them when they were young and helpless.

Finally, wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberals lobbied for involuntary euthanasia so that burdensome parents can be put out of their children's misery.

As the day ends, Joe reflects on his nation, his liberties and his freedoms. He is free because conservative cold warriors kept commie lefty Liberals from unilaterally disarming America.

Joe resents having to be so dependent on gov't goods and services, but since he didn't ask for it, since--indeed--it was imposed on him anyway, against his will, and forcibly deducted from his hard-earned wages, the only way he can recoup a fraction of his losses is to play the hand he's been dealt--even if the deck is stacked against him.

But given a choice, he refuses to a vote for a Massachusetts liberal who was drafted; who tried to dodge the draft by requesting an education deferment to study in Paris; who volunteered for the Naval reserves (when his deferment was denied) to duck active duty service; who gamed the three-purple-hearts-and-your-out policy by writing up his own glowing after-action reports about his self-inflicted flesh-wounds; who, after receiving a dishonorable discharge, laid the groundwork for a successful political career by slandering his comrades-in-arms; who eventually ran for president on the platform that he served honorably in a dishonorable war; and who angrily denounced a war he authorized.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on NPR. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are good and right-wingers are bad. He doesn't mention that the beloved liberals have fought for the infringement of every freedom that Joe's old man used to enjoy and take for granted.

Faith & reason

In reply to your inquiry, regarding your friend of a friend, one could give a long answer or a short answer. For now, I'll content myself with a short answer.

1. If we equate the Bible with divine revelation, through-and-through, which is the classic Protestant position, as well as the position of the historic Christian church, then of what is the Bible a revelation? It is a revelation of the very mind of God.

As such, there is no necessary dichotomy between reason and revelation. To submit our fallen, finite, and fallible reason to omniscient reason is supremely reasonable. To operate apart from the guidance of divine reason, or in defiance of divine reason, is supremely unreasonable.

2. Due to natural revelation and common grace, we can sometimes learn from the unbeliever.

3. If you study the history of philosophy, it moves in cycles. It generally starts out with a very high view of reason. But as reason reflects on itself, it runs into scepticism.

A man lost in the dark needs a flashlight, map, and compass to find his way out of the woods. Reason is the flashlight. Revelation is the map and compass. Without a map and compass, the flashlight is useless. Everywhere we look we see more trees.

4. Scripture, tradition, and experience are not on a par. Tradition is like multiple-choice. It presents us with a range of interpretive options. We then test these options against Scripture. Which makes the most exegetical sense?

Experience makes us more receptive to certain truths of Scripture. They are more relevant to our immediate need. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to understand something for which we have no personal experience.

5. It is also possible to mix-and-match the best of various theological traditions. A Calvinist might like Lutheran music, Gothic architecture, and Anglican poetry.

6. Why say that faith and reason ask different questions based on different assumptions? What not say that faith and reason often ask the same questions based on different assumptions?

7. Faith doesn't come into the picture at some point along the way. The Christian faith is a walk of faith from start to finish.

Bertrand Russell drew a celebrated distinction between knowledge by description and knowledge by acquaintance.

To oversimplify, faith is knowledge by description, whereas reason is knowledge by acquaintance.

There are some things we know as a matter of direct, personal experience. But that is very limited.

We are dependent on knowledge by description for most of what we know and most of what we need to know.

The Christian takes many things on faith. He doesn't know them to be true as a matter of immediate experience, but he knows them to be true because the source of knowledge (divine revelation=the Bible) is veracious.

8. Aquinas is too complex a thinker to easily summarize. However, 'subjective' or 'intuitive' are hardly the adjectives which spring to mind. Aquinas is highly analytical.

Also, Aquinas was in no sense a religious pluralist. He was a high churchman.

9. 'Subjective' is a slippery word. It can be used as a synonym for what is personal or individual, but it can also be used as a synonym for a form of relativism.

In Reformed theology, the subjective dimension is also under the providence of God.

'Literal' is another slippery word, as is 'fundamentalist.' 'Original intent' would be a more accurate description. Conservative Christians believe that the Bible means today whatever it meant at the time it was written. It means what it was meant to mean to the original audience.

This is not distinctive to Scripture. This holds true for any document from the past. The difference attaches to the authority of original intent. In the case of Scripture, original intent carries divine authority.

10. Like every other relativist, he has to cheat: 'God transcends each of our avenues of Christian enlightenment and understanding, but works through us and teaches us where we're at.'

If we are confined to our subjective avenues of enlightenment and understanding, then we are in no position to know if they're converging or diverging, headed in the right direction or the wrong direction. I can't see over the wall.

He is having to assume a God's-eye viewpoint for himself in order to deny a God's-eye viewpoint for the rest of us. He is illicitly transcending his own eye-level avenue in order to claim that there is both a God's-eye perspective and an eye-level perspective. This is fudging. If he's down here with the rest of us, then he's not privy to satellite cartography, but only our earthbound sightlines.

If, on the other hand, the Bible is divinely inspired, then God can reveal a slice of his transcendent perspective. Knowledge can't move from the bottom up, but it can move from the top down--the transcendent becoming in some measure immanent.

In addition, if he really believes in diversity, then why does he insist on a common destiny? Wouldn't diversity allow for, if not imply, divergent destinations?



You said:

<< I like your blog alot. Very smart, well written and well thought out. However, though I believe in God, I do not believe in any religion having the definitive word of God. To assume or have faith in words set down by men, whoever they might have been, and assume they received the word of God, and that is what we read today, makes me wonder. No one should ever assume they have received the definitive word of God, especially when one assumes that word is for all. "The Christian takes many things on faith. He doesn't know them to be true as a matter of immediate experience, but he knows them to be true because the source of knowledge (divine revelation=the Bible) is veracious." How do we know that? How do we know it is veracious?
Oh by the way, without a flashlight, you could never see the compass and map. >>

i) You say you believe in God. If so, it has to be a God with certain specific attributes, to the exclusion of contrary attributes. So you have to believe that your concept of God is true, and contrary conceptions are false.

Now, you may not adhere to that with dogmatic confidence. Still, you happen to believe, with whatever caveats, that your version of God is true.

ii) Presumably you have certain reasons for believing in God, and for your particular version of God. There must be something you count as evidence for the existence of God.

That would be a form of divine revelation, whether you think it's written down or natural or intuitive or whatever. So you must believe that there's a true revelation of God which you, for one, can truly construe.

iii) You say, "No one should ever assume they have received the definitive word of God, especially when one assumes that word is for all."

I should think the logic would be just the reverse. A truth, any truth, is a universal truth. Take your statement that "without a flashlight, you could never see the compass and map." Is that truth only true for New Yorkers, and not for Indians or Eskimos or Tibetans?

iv) Now, you might say that there is a truth, but it is unknowable. Well, how would one know about the existence of an unknowable truth?

v) You say you don't "believe in any religion having the definitive word of God." Well, that belief negates the opposing belief that one religion does have the definitive word of God. So you take your belief as true, and the opposing belief as false. At that level, your belief is just as exclusionary as mine.

vi) Incidentally, why don't you believe that any religion has the definitive word of God?

vii) You say that "to assume or have faith in words set down by men, whoever they might have been, and assume they received the word of God, and that is what we read today, makes me wonder."

Since this is a statement rather than an explanation, I don't know the nub of your objection. Why would God not want to communicate his will to men? And, if so, why would he not use the medium of words? That is the standard form of communication.

viii) You ask, "How do we know that? How do we know it is veracious?"

Okay, that's a good question. There is, of course, a considerable body of apologetic literature in answer to that question.

In some measure, the answer is person-variable, for different individuals are impressed by different lines of evidence. Some folks are impressed by archeological evidence, others by psychological realism, others by more philosophical strains of reasoning, and so on.

I've sketched some of my own personal reasons for believing in my essay on "Why I believe," posted at Triablogue.

Confusion twice confounded

Dear Dr. Sanders,

I read your essay on the recent election with interest:

A few comments:

1. You accuse the religious right of syncretism. This may in some measure be true. However, once one considers the beliefs, practices, and morality of the Robert Sanders, one finds that they are syncretistic as well. For example, Dr. Sanders believes that we should model our society on OT economics. I myself am quite open to that argument.

However, Dr. Sanders evidently does not believe that we should model our society on the OT theology of war. So he believes in OT economics, but not OT ethics.

Now, perhaps you would say the OT theology of war was fulfilled in Christ, such that it is no longer applicable under the New Covenant--not, at least, at a literal level. Yet you also say that OT economics were fulfilled in Christ (2 Cor 8:9), and yet you apparently believe that his example is exemplary for Christians, and exemplary at a fairly literal level, when you literally reapply the Jubilee to Christian ethics.

2. There is also the problem of your love/hate attitude towards private property. On the one hand, you seem regard poverty as an evil--to be rectified by income redistribution. Yet, in the exemplary case of Christ, you regard impoverishment as a good. On the other hand, you evidently regard wealth as an evil. Yet you seem to believe that the rich ought to share their wealth so that everyone is relatively rich.

So is affluence a good thing or a bad thing? Is your position that no one should be rich unless everyone is rich? It looks like you love the poor as long as they're poor, and you hate the rich as long as the rich. If the rich became poor, you'd love them; if the poor became rich, you'd hate them. Yet you think that the rich should enrich the poor, at which point the poor would become hateful.

Although I don't suppose you're a rich man by American standards, you are a rich man by Third World standards. Does the fact that Robert Sanders is the thankless beneficiary of a modern American standard of living make him a worshipper of Pluto? Is so, that's another aspect of his syncretistic doctrine and praxis. He combines ingratitude and hypocrisy all in one sanctimonious package.

3. Then there's your stated commitment to radical pacifism. Putting aside the question of whether this is exegetically supportable, it raises yet another difficulty. Suppose the wealthy were to spread their largesse in some equitable division of the spoils.

How do you square your radical pacifism with the right of private ownership? What keeps the thief from impoverishing his neighbor? If you don't believe in the use of force to restrain evildoers, then evildoers will use force to confiscate all the goodies for themselves.

That, indeed, is more than a hypothetical. It happens all the time in totalitarian regimes.

4. In this same general connection, you talk about the Confessing Church, that remnant of Christians who stood against the Nazis.

Now, forgive me for stating the obvious, but you can only talk about a Christian remnant because our side won. If Hitler had been victorious, there would be no Christian remnant, or Jewish remnant for that matter. The whole world would be Nazi.

Indeed, we can turn back the clock. If our side hadn't won the Battle of Lepanto, or the Battle of Poitiers, there would be no Christian remnant. The whole world would be Muslim.

BTW, this is one of the problems with your "Christian" pacifism. Your "Christian" pacifism is a ghost town, uninhabited by Christians. A necropolis rather than the city of God.

Our Lord founded a church--a church for the duration of the church age. A defenseless church cannot long survive.

Oh, yes, you can cite historical examples in which nonviolence has been successful, but that will not work with everyone.

You set up a false antithesis between patriotism and the church. Yes, there's a danger of blind patriotism. But at this present time, America is the only force on earth that can repel the two major enemies which threaten the life of the church: secular humanism and global jihad.

5. So far I've confined myself to your syncretism, to your systematic incoherence. Given the massive moral condescension of your essay, I don't think it is asking toi much from you to favor us with a principled and practical alternative--instead of an intellectually confused and contradictory screed.

Now let's move on to some detailed errors.

6. There's a difference between quoting the Sermon on the Mount, and exegeting the Sermon on the Mount.

What does it mean to turn the other cheek? Have you bothered to visualize the concrete imagery? To strike someone on the right-hand side of the face is, literally, a backhanded slap. That is an insult, not an assault.

The Sermon on the Mount was addressed to Jews living under Roman occupation. It doesn't envision or address a post-Constantinian situation.

This doesn't mean that the Sermon on the Mount has no relevance for contemporary Christians. But some minimal effort must be made to adapt the message to our own time and place. Again, that doesn't mean that we conform the message to our situation. We may need to conform our situation to the message. Nevertheless, you do need to recontextualize the message to the circumstances of an audience other than the original audience.

7. The Jubilee was not about income redistribution. Rather, it presupposes a tribal society in which major landholdings were common property of the clan. The Jubilee represents a restoration of the status quo ante.

8. As to the plight of the poor, the OT makes provision for charitable giving. It was not, however, welfare, but workfare--gleaning the fields (Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-21).

9. You level the following accusation: "the United States has been profoundly implicated in the rule of Mammon, the economic laying waste of entire countries, if not continents, together with the devastation of wars and invasions, some of which were needless."

What wars and invasions in particular? W.W.I? W.W.II? The Cold War? The ongoing war against Islamo-terrorism? Would the world be a better off without our intervention? If the Third Reich or the Empire of Japan had been victorious? If Stalinism swept the world? If the forces of global jihad, aided by state-sponsored terrorism, were victorious?

What is your standard of comparison here? And what does it mean to say that some of our wars and invasions were needless? I thought your were a radical pacifist. Are you now saying that although some wars are needless, other wars are needful, but we shouldn't fight them anyway?

What makes you think that the US has impoverished rather than enriched the world? Isn't the US the engine powering the world economy? Wouldn't broad swaths of the world be infinitely poorer without American trade, technology, and outsourcing? Why are Mexicans pouring over the border for their slice of the American dream if the American way of life is such a nightmare?

You love employees, but hate employers. Can't have one without the other, though.

If you want to attack specific instances of abuse, fine. But warm fuzzy words don't defend the defenseless or feed the hungry.

If you really think you have a better way of getting the job done, go somewhere and make it happen. If you think pacifism is the answer, then go to some war-torn part of the world and try it out.

If you think you have a better economic system, go somewhere and make it happen. Start your own little commune or whatever.

Why do you just sit there in front of your computer screen, brought to you c/o those evil multinational corporations, unctuously attacking everyone else for failing to put your wonderful ideas into practice? Why don't you make some personal effort to implement your own ideas? Why should we believe in your ideas if you don't? Why should we drop everything and try to make them work if you don't? What are we to make of your deedless creed? Haven't you ever heard of leading by example?



Dr. Pellegrino awoke to find himself in a padded cell. For just about any man, much less a man of his studied ambitions, this was a distinctly unsettling turn of events. Why, only last night he had gone to bed at the usual time, in the usual place. As Warden for The Institute of Mental Reprogramming, he was used to being on the other side of the bars, looking in. Whatever went wrong?

For years he had been a devoted public servant of the Imperium. Was it not he who designed the software for Sybil, the computer program which had proved so useful in monitoring subversive movements? Indeed, it was that achievement which had brought him to the attention of Gen. LaBete, and gained him his promotion.

To be sure, it is not uncommon for LaBete’s most trusted lieutenants to fall out of favor with the grand old man. And when they did so, they would disappear behind the sound-absorbent walls of the Institute, never to be seen or heard from again. Well, that’s not entirely true. They could still be heard from time to time--in high-pitched squeals of pain.

Not only was it not uncommon, but rather routine, for secretly denouncing one’s superiors to LaBete under some trumped up charge of sedition was, after all, the general method of career advancement.

Yes, that must be what had happened to Dr. Pellegrino. Some obsequious underling of his had floated an evil rumor. But who could it be, and what could it be? Had he not taken every possible precaution to cover his tracks? Not only so, but to lay down another set of tracks pointing in the wrong direction? He had done his share of whispering in the old man’s ear. Such was both an occupational hazard and an occupational safeguard.


Deep into his musings on cosmic injustice, his cell-door opened noisily, and Pellegrino was escorted to his old office, which was now occupied by a new incumbent. Pellegrino was startled to see Col. Clouenfote in his old chair.

For years, Col. Clouenfote had been as LaBete’s right-hand man. Indeed, rumor had it that Clouenfote was the real power behind the throne. Evidently, LaBete came to nurture the same suspicion, for Clouenfote fell from his good graces, to be "reassigned," as the saying went, to the Institute. Following upon an unfortunate "accident" in custody--or was it suicide?--accounts differed--Clouenfote’s condition was upgraded to brain-dead, after which he was given a state funeral for his years of faithful service to the revolutionary cause.

That, at least, was the official report. All this happened before Pellegrino became warden. But it now looked like "death" was a term of art. Were all those eulogies spoken over an empty casket? Come to think of it, maybe that’s why it was a closed casket ceremony. Had Clouenfote staged his own death?

In the Imperium, things were never quite as they seemed. Why, LaBete himself had "died" on more than one occasion to smoke out his political rivals. No one could succeed him until he died--whether by natural causes or otherwise--and if he could liquidate his successors before they could liquidate him, his tenure was secure. All things considered, "death" was his best life-insurance.

Like 3D chess, imperial bullets weren’t restricted to straight lines, but could travel at right angles. There was no telling from just what corner an imperial bullet might emerge. That no doubt lent life in the Imperium a certain sprightly exhilaration.

I don’t wish to leave the reader with an unduly harsh impression of The Imperium. LaBete preferred a scalpel to an ax. He took a certain professional pride in his management skills. It was not so much a moral inhibition to wanton carnage, for morality was only a tool to restrain the masses. Rather, it was more a matter of decorum and statecraft. Not point wasting a perfectly good bullet. Even assassination had its golden mean. Excess was a sign of inefficiency, and inefficiency was downright indecent in a respectable despotism.

Nevertheless, as LaBete was apt to say, one well-placed projectile does wonders for diplomatic leverage. A bullet is worth a thousand words.


Clouenfote dismissed the guards, who took up their station outside the door--just a buzzer away--then gestured for Pellegrino to sit down. This was the same chair in which Pellegrino’s "patients" ordinarily sat for their "therapy" sessions. "Patient" was another term of art in the Imperium, as was the word for "therapy."

Counterrevolutionary impulses were humanely treated as a symptom of mental illness. Treatment took a variety of forms, depending on the severity of the illness. Just as certain techniques were used to cultivate an aversion to addictive-compulsive behavior, aversion therapy was often employed in the treatment of counterrevolutionary impulses. It was necessary to first diagnose the particular phobia of a given patient, then put his phobia to productive use.

More extreme cases might require more invasive measures, such as electroshock therapy or the odd lobotomy. There was even a specially trained pain-management team to scientifically investigate a patient’s pain threshold. In the Imperium, tolerance was a virtue--especially a tolerance to pain.

But in the case of high-ranking patients, psychoanalysis was the preferred method of extracting useful information lest more invasive procedures might impair their long-term memory.

Contrary to the impersonal image of socialized medicine, treatment at the Institute was deeply sensitive to the unique profile of each patient who came through its doors. There was a low doctor-to-patient ratio to ensure that no patient fail to received the individualized attention he needed. What is more, all neurosurgical and neuropharmacological services were offered free of charge, as a civil right of every certifiable citizen. Patients were so satisfied with the treatment they received that, once admitted, no one ever left the Institute.


"Dr. Pellegrino," said Clouenfote, "I’ve heard so much about you that it’s a real privilege to finally meet you!"

"Forgive me for saying," said Pellegrino, "but the inauspicious circumstances of our meeting tend to dampen my enthusiasm!"

"I quite understand."

"Why am I under suspicion?"

"Come, come, my dear fellow. In the Imperium, no one is above suspicion. You know that!"

"But why am I here?"

"It has come to the attention of the Imperium that some of your recent contacts raise a few questions about where your ultimate loyalties lie."

"What contacts?"

"Your interest in Piscator."

"That’s why Sybil is for. To monitor subversive groups like Piscator."

"Yes, I quite understand," said Clouenfote, "but sometimes the level of interest goes well beyond the bounds of purely professional duty, and becomes an altogether more personal concern."

"If you’re accusing me of counterrevolutionary sympathies, nothing could be further from the truth! I’m a loyal public servant of the Imperium!"

"Comrade, no one is accusing you of anything. Your aren’t on trial here. It is not as though this were a punitive action on our part. No, you were committed for your own good. Our only concern is that you receive the help you need."

"I don’t need any help! I’m innocent, I say!"

"If you were innocent, you’d profess your innocence--but if you were guilty, you’d profess your innocence. That is what makes this a matter of such exquisite delicacy. Surely you understand our predicament?"

"So you are accusing me of something!"

"Once again you’re entirely too defensive about this. Mental illness is not a crime!"

"I’m not insane!"

"If you were sane, you’d profess your sanity--but if you were insane, you’d profess your sanity. That’s why we need to go through this exercise in psychodiagnostics, in order to isolate and identify the root-cause of your psychosis."

"This is crazy!" Pellegrino exclaimed.

"Ah, I’m glad to see that we’re finally making some progress!"

"That’s not what I meant. You’re twisting my words!"

"Then what do you mean?"

"This is a miscarriage of justice--that’s what I mean!"

"I see. So you really are impugning the integrity of the Imperium. Such a treasonous confession confirms our worst fears."

"How can I acquit myself when you choose to equate self-defense with self-incrimination?"

"It seems to me that you’ve answered your own question!" Clouenfote replied.

Everything that Pellegrino said made matters worse. Indeed, it suddenly occurred to him that he had heard this all many times before, only he was the interrogator, and someone else was on the couch. But somehow it never hit him until today.


The next morning, Pellegrino was taken back to Clouenfote’s office.

"So good to see you again," said Clouenfote. "I hope you’re better rested today. I’m afraid we got off on rather the wrong foot yesterday. Would you like a nice cup of tea?"

Pellegrino sipped slowly as music playing in the background--the Damnation of Faust by Berlioz, as he recalled.

"Now, in our little counseling session this morning, let’s talk some more about your associations with Piscator," Clouenfote said.

"I have no associations with Piscator!"

"There you go again! You’re taking this much too personally! If you have nothing to hide, why do you become so irritable the moment I pose a simple, innocuous question?"

"Waking up in a padded cell, interrogated like an enemy of the state--that might have something to do with it!"

"This is all for your own protection. We only have you best interests at heart. That is why LaBete took the unusual step of having me assigned to your case."

"Either that or he think I know something I’m not supposed to know!"

"And do you?"

"Of course not!"

"If you didn’t know, you’d say you didn’t know--but if you knew, you’d say you didn’t know."

"What’s there not to know? You tell me?"

"Now that’s a trick question, my dear Pellegrino."

"On the contrary, isn’t the real question what you think I know?"

"Now you’re trying to change the subject again. Let’s get back to Piscator," Clouenfote said. "Do you remember the very first question of the shorter catechism which we all taught in grade school?"

"How could I forget? ‘What is there?’" Pellegrino replied.

"And what was the answer?"

"Infinite atoms in infinite combinations!"

"Precisely! But Piscator believes in all this ethereal, intangible stuff like God and angels, the immortal soul, and abstract universals like sin and grace.

Yet scientific materialism has disproven the existence of spectral entities. There is no mind. The mind is just a useful fiction, a bourgeois illusion. We are meat machines--corporeal robots programmed by natural selection to simulate consciousness, but--trust me--there is no homunculus behind the eyes.

There is, indeed, no essential difference between a man and a packet of instant coffee. The only difference between the two is that you must mix up a different batch of dry chemicals to get a man or a cup of coffee. Just add water!"

Pellegrino nodded his head in apparent agreement. Indeed, had he’d heard this same speech a week ago he’d have nodded his head in earnest agreement. But now he was beginning to harbor grave doubts about the party line. Up until now he’d had no reason to question the Imperial creed. Indeed, he’d had every reason to never question it. Until his fall from grace, he had prospered under the system.

But now, yes now, the crackpot logic of the whole enterprise was beginning to take hold. And the more unreasonable the Imperial creed appeared to be, the more reasonable the Piscarian creed seemed to be. Of course, he didn’t tip his hand to Clouenfote.


Back in the cell, Pellegrino began to plot his escape. The Institute was a high security facility. Yet most of its security measures took the form, not of armed guards, but of electronic locks, motion-controlled laser beams, nerve gas, the electrified fence, and other suchlike.

Once he was taken into custody, his access codes were moot, but having designed the software for Sybil he knew how to hack into the system. All he needed was to get his hands on a computer keyboard. That's how he would break out. But where would he go?

In his surveillance of Piscator, he had discovered their secret base in the Delectable Mountains. He was planning to report this to the Imperium before his downfall. But now he was hoping to join the movement.

He bluffed his way through the third "counseling" session. At one point he deliberately spilled his cup of tea, making it look like an accident. When Clouenfote went for a napkin, Pellegrino stole a ballpoint pen.

As the guards were escorting him back to his cell, Pellegrino whipped out his pen and stabbed them both. He then headed back to the office as little puffs of smoke rose over his shoulder, unbeknownst to him.

With an ID card he had taken from the guard, Pellegrino swiped the lock on his old office door, and barged back in.

Clouenfote was startled, to say the least. He buzzed the guards, but of course, they were out of action. He then reached for a gun in the desk drawer, but Pellegrino was on top of him. In the ensuing tussle and scuffle, Clouenfote was shot. But instead of bleeding, he began to sizzle and smoke.

Pellegrino was momentarily nonplused, then the truth dawned on him--Clouenfote really was a robot! Evidently, Clouenfote had died after all, to be replaced by a robotic double.

After recovering his senses, Pellegrino went to the computer terminal and disabled the security system. He was now free to make his escape.

But then another thought crossed him mind. Who was really in charge of the Imperium?

Having swiped the computer with Clouenfote’s ID card, Pellegrino didn’t need to hack into the system, for Clouenfote already had the next highest security clearance, just under LaBete.

He studied a top-secret map of the Imperium. This disclosed an underground shuttle which went direct from the Institute to Imperial Central, where LaBete was headquartered.

Curiosity got the better of him. Pellegrino hopped onto the shuttle. With Clouenfote’s ID card, he had no difficulty gaining access to LaBete’s private office.

LaBete was seated in the handsome leather chair from which he was seen to give his televised speeches to the nation. Pellegrino stalked over, gun in hand, and demanded to know who had turned him in.

LaBete was speechless. When Pellegrino bent over, LaBete disappeared from view. When Pellegrino straightened up, LaBete reappeared. Momentarily confused, Pellegrino then waved his hand back and forth. The image came and went accordingly. LaBete was a hologram!

It seemed as though the entire Imperium was one vast automated necropolis. How could that be? Where did all the people go?

He then did another computer search. It turned out that Sybil was generating robots and holograms to replace dying members of the Imperium. Pellegrino never designed Sybil to do that, but as an adaptive program, his software rose to the challenge of keeping the old guard intact.

But, for Pellegrino, the idea of a robotic ghost town was like a nightmare from which the sleeper can never awake. Worse than that, it was a mantrap. Any man or woman wandering in would be ensnared like a rat in a mousetrap. It was time to put an end to the bad dream and make his way to the Delectable Mountains.

Pellegrino went into the computer system for the power plant, and initiated a shutdown of the entire power grid, leaving himself just enough time to get out of the Imperium before all hardwired and wireless systems went offline. After he got outside the defensive perimeter, he turned around to watch the lights going out all over the Imperium. He had made it! He was free--free at last!


A week later, Piscator retook the Imperium. There they found Pellegrino still standing outside the city gates, frozen in place, facing the Imperium.

A computer search uncovered the fact that Pellegrino has been executed as an enemy of the state, right after which his cybernetic doppelganger was put in a padded cell, and preprogrammed to wake up the next morning. In the Imperium, "to wake up" was a term of art.

Aurora & Tithonus

In the year 38809, on the colonial planet of Asteron, orbiting the binary star-system of Tellus Minor, Aurora and Tithonus were celebrating their 95th wedding anniversary. Okay, if you're going to get technical about this, it was really their 34,675th wedding anniversary, to be exact.

Tithonus was thawing out in his stasis chamber as Aurora brought a candle-lit cake into the bedroom, topped with 95 candles, which was--all things considered--a more manageable arrangement than a cake topped with 34,675 candles.

Aurora and Tithonus originally moved to Asteron in the year 2320. After medical science had solved the secret of death, back in the year 2193, the blue planet underwent a population explosion.

At first, anathanatonic technology was kept under wraps and reserved for the Nullifidian Order. But as the Nullifidians ceases to age, sicken, and die, the Solafidian underclass naturally grew a mite suspicious--not to say--restive, demanding equal access to anathanatonic therapy.

After a general strike, the Nullifidians gave in, but enacted Draconian birth-control measures to depress the ranks of the Solafidians. The Solafidians, resenting yet another the double-standard, and spotting a chance to shift the balance of power, skirted the measures at every turn until their seed outnumbered the sand and stars.

In due course, the Nullifidians were so overwhelmed that they fell from power and went into exile, taking their anathanatonic technology along with them. For their part, the Solafidians, having cast off the yoke of old Pharaoh, were content, once more, to embrace mortality in the interests of a blest immortality to come.

Having revived from his cryogenic deep freeze, Tithonus was ready to join in the festivities--if "revived" is quite the right word for it.

Aurora and Tithonus had married at the optimal age of 25, as was customary for the Nullifidian Order. Because all Nullifidian marriages were arranged by a computerized dating service, compatibility was assured and divorce was unheard of. And so, for 15 years, they each enjoyed their quantized quota of nuptial felicitude.

And at the age of 40, they both underwent their mandatory course of anathanatonic therapy. The process was irreversible, but accurate to the 99th percentile--followed by some unmanageable string of decimal places.

Yet, much to the misfortune of Tithonus, he beat the stochastically calibrated odds. As a consequence, Tithonus was made immortal, without making him ageless.

At first no one took notice, but after a few years the terrible truth was evident to all--gray hair, crow's-feet, and other such blemishes too dreadful to name. Since nothing could be done to reverse or even arrest the aging process, Aurora and Tithonus, after consulting with the best medical advice, agreed to have him put into stasis for 364 days a year, and reanimated once a year on the day of their anniversary, so that he'd only age at a rate of one day per annum.

This arrangement worked out admirably enough for the first few millennia, but as his metabolic age began to catch up with his calendar age, his personal participation in these anniversaries became progressively less--how shall we say?-- participatory.

Until he reached 70 or so, they could still enjoy a night of love, albeit with rather less vigor and vitality than in times past. And even when the libido began to wane, despite the latest generation of genetically-enhanced aphrodisiacs, Tithonus could catch up on all the latest news. Indeed, it was no small feat to compress several thousand years of history into a few hours of lucidity.

But as the signs of senile dementia began to show, even these pleasantries became a trifle one-sided.

On this anniversary, the difference between his waking state and suspended animation was, as it were, a matter of Scholastic refinement.

After blowing out the candles, Aurora put his cake in a blender, poured it out into a tumbler, and stuck a straw in is mouth so that Tithonus could suck on the layer cake in its reconstituted form--or formlessness, as the case may be.

Due to the technical perfection of digitized match-mating, Nullifidian marriages were ordinarily monogamous and indissoluble. But due to the mechanical mishap in their particular case, Aurora was granted a special dispensation to consummate a bigamous union.

Out of tact for her first husband, she, of course, contracted this arrangement without his knowledge--which, in any event, presented no great obstacle.

Yet that did not solve all her problems, for under Nullifidian law, a couple’s property was held in common, and could not be debited or disposed of without the mutual consent of both parties. Since Nullifidians were normally in the pink of health, there was no provision in law for the power-of-attorney in case of diminished responsibility or mental impairment--which, at the metabolic age of 120, was sadly descriptive of her husband’s condition.

And in this matter, a special dispensation was out of the question, for while the Privy Council of Asteron could be lenient in matters of the heart, yet no such indulgence was permissible in matters of the purse. Why, once you began to meddle with hereditary prerogatives, you might as well be a lowborn Solafidian!

It isn’t that Aurora was by any means destitute. Her second marriage sustained the lifestyle to which she was accustomed by birth and breeding.

Indeed, Nullifidian society was an egalitarian aristocracy. Everyone was rich, and, what was worse--everyone was equally rich! A graduated income tax redistributed the wealth to forestall any unstable class envy between the merely rich and the filthy rich.

But that was just the problem. A nobleman among noblemen was no better than a pauper among paupers. The whole point of social class is to be a cut above. And this worked out well enough when Nullifidians were living and ruling on the blue planet. But when the entirety of the upper crust were packed off to Asteron, there was no longer anyone to look down upon, and I needn’t tell the reader how depressing that could be. Even the very latest generation of psychoactive drugs had been unable to lift the general malaise.

And here was her drooling paramour, astride a tax-exempt pot of gold! If only she could tap into that dormant account, plush with well-nigh 35,000 years of compound interest, she would become the instant queen, nay, the empress, of high society!

Nor must we attribute this deliberation to low motives of greed. Her motives, in her own mind, at least, were as pure as fresh fallen snow. For this would be a restoration of the grand old order, before the Nullifidians were banished to Asteron. A dash of class envy would give the dispirited masses of the idle rich something to live for. Should we wear emeralds or rubies to the ball?

Strictly speaking, the immortals were not essentially deathless. Although they could not die of natural causes or terminal illness, yet even immortals could die in a tragic accident. And in that sad eventuality, the surviving spouse would inherit the estate.

The question, then, was whether his stasis chamber could be adjusted to precipitate an unfortunate accident. This would not be murder, not at least to her high-minded way of thinking. Nay, this would be for the common good. The rights of the many outweighed the rights of the few, or the one.

True, she would be the immediate beneficiary of his princely estate, yet she was but a tool of destiny, consecrated to a solitary and sacrificial destiny. If wealth beyond imagining was the price she must pay to liberate her people from their affluent ennui, then she was prepared to bear the aweful cost alone.

No doubt the estate tax was an onerous affair, but with that kind of money to spread around--a bribe here, a kickback there--the tax rate could be modified upwards--considerably upwards!

These solemn thoughts passed through her head as Tithonus was slurping up his layer cake, in little starts and gurgles, quite oblivious to his signal role in the great scheme of things. What better way to honor her husband? If he could speak, this is what he would want. It would be a mercy to all concerned. Indeed, she was startled by the moral clarity of her vision.

The next question was how she should arrange the accident to make it look--well, to make it look--accidental. Gazing at Tithonus, a flash of inspiration seized her. Suppose she sort of spilled his liquid cake on the controls? If this shorted out the unit, then he would pine away quietly in the night. Yes, there would be an official investigation, but as long as it appeared to be an innocent accident, no charges would be pressed.

She removed the tumbler from his fist, shut the lid, then tipped the tumbler the to one side. The contents spilled out, pouring over the side until they reached the controls. The liquid began to bubble and burn and smell, while the control panel began to sputter and smoke and spark.

In the morning, her second husband came into the bedroom. Aurora and Tithonus had had 24 hours alone, to celebrate their private anniversary.

But on the floor, in a pool of lumpy goo, lay his prostrate wife. Evidently, Aurora was so entranced by the short-circuitry that she failed to notice the slop trickling and dripping onto the floor below, and spreading all around her slippers. When she took a step back, the wet floor conducted the electrical current, shocking her senseless.

After a week, in the hospital, Aurora was released. Although she had escaped electrocution, yet a battery of body scans diagnosed some physical anomalies, the significance of which the medical team was unable to explain.

At first no one took notice, but after a few years the terrible truth was evident to all--gray hair, crow's-feet, and other such blemishes too dreadful to name. She underwent another battery of body scans. Apparently the electric shock had left her immortal, but no longer ageless. Since nothing could be done to reverse or even arrest the aging process, Aurora and her second husband agreed to have her put into stasis for 365 days a year, and reanimated once a year on the day of their anniversary, so that she'd only age at a rate of one day per annum.

Her stasis chamber was set alongside Tithonus who, thanks to an emergency back-up system, had survived the "accident" unharmed.

This arrangement worked out admirably enough for the first few millennia, but as her metabolic age began to catch up with her calendar age, her personal participation in these anniversaries became progressively less--how shall we say?--participatory.

Eyeless in Gaza


A waitress was serving tables at the Twin-Rivers Cafe when a blind-man with a cane came through the door and stood in the waiting area. She set the dirty dishes aside and hastened over to where he was.
"One for lunch?" she asked.
She took in him gently by the arm and seated him.
"Do you know what you want? I can read the menu to you."
"No, that’s fine. I’d like a cheeseburger with fries, and a coke," he said.

A few tables down from the were three rather loud and rowdy motor-bikers. The waitress went over to refill their water-tumblers. "Is everything okay? Anything else you need?"
"What about having you for desert?" said one of the bikers.
"She faked a giggle and began to walk away when he grabbed her.
"Let me go!" she said. He held on.
"Let me go, I say!"
As she tried to twist free, she knocked the tumblers over, which went smashing all over the floor. And this point, the blind-man got up and walked over to the source of all the noise and commotion.
"Is there a problem?" he asked.
"Problem? I don’t see a problem. Do you see a problem?" the biker said, making fun of his sightlessness.
"The lady told you to leave her be!"
"Boy, Batman to the rescue!"
"I may be blind as a bat, but as long as I can hear you and feel you, that’s all I need." At this point, the blind-man put his martial arts skills to service. A minute later the cook came out of the kitchen to drag the groaning bikers outside.
"Are you all right?" the blind-man asked.
"I’m fine, thanks to you!" she said
She escorted him back to the table, tidied up a bit, then brought him his lunch.
"Meal’s on the house," said the cook, after dumping the bikers on the pavement.
"Oh, it was nothing," said the blind-man.
"You defended my daughter. That’s no small thanks to me!"
"This is my father Ian," she said. He owns the café".
Ian took the blind-man’s hand and shook it warmly, then went back into the kitchen.
"What’s your name?" she asked?
"Marquis. And yours?"
"That’s a pretty name--to go with a pretty voice!"
She blushed, unbeknownst to Marquis.
"Just passing through?" she asked? "I haven’t see you around before."
"I’ve been staying at the Moriah Motel. I live back East, but the airports are all snowed in, and the local airport is crawling with stranded passengers, so I taxied out here to get a little peace and quiet until the storm blows over."
"Yes, I heard about the blizzard."


Marquis heard a knock at the door.
"Hello again, Marquis."
"Griselda!" he exclaimed, registering her voice. "Something smells awful good!"
"I just thought I’d bring you something for dinner."
"That’s real sweet, but you didn’t have to go to all the trouble."
"No trouble at all. Remember, my dad’s a cook!"
"Did you bring enough for two?"
"As a matter of fact..."
"Let me turn the music down," he said, walking over to his portable CD player, as Mendelssohn’s "Es wird ein Stern aus Jacob" was wafting softly in the background.
"No, don’t bother," she said. "I can’t hear it anyway."
"Can’t hear?"
"I’m deaf!"
"Deaf? But how can you hear me?"
"I can’t. I’m a lip-reader."
"Well, what a pair we make--one blind, the other deaf!"
"That was pretty impressive--what you did today. Imagine three thugs bested by a blind-man!"
"Well, when you’re blind you learn to take care of yourself. Most folks go out of their way to be nice, but there are a few who take advantage. So what’s for dinner?"
"Leg of lamb with mashed potatoes and gravy."
"I’ll have to beat up a bunch of thugs more often!"
"What do you do for a living?"
"I’m a musician. And you? Any hobbies?"
"I paint and garden. I should take you by my place before you leave."


"I wish you could see the pretty trees and flowers," she said.
"Well, I can tell from the fragrance that you’ve got roses, some honeysuckle, and a magnolia or two. If I could see the trees, what would I see?"
"Down by the river is a stand of weeping willows. The wooded hills on either side are mostly fir, chestnut, and cedar. In the midst of the garden there stands a Jerusalem oak. I thought that’s where we’d have our picnic, to take in the shade. To your right is a locust tree, and on your left is a terebinth."
"Surely you didn’t plant all these trees yourself. They wouldn’t have time enough to grow," he said.
"My forefather Jesse seeded the land long ago. Although some trees were felled for lumber, and others consumed by wildfire, little seedings wiggled up from the stump and scattered acorns hither and yon."
"You’ve got a lot of different song-birds in the garden. Where did they all come from?" asked Marquis.
"Oh, the old lady next door screened in the back porch to turn into a little aviary. When she died, we released them into the wild. But most of them stuck around." Marquis cocked his ear.
"What do you hear?" she asked.
"That’s a wood thrush."
"What does it sound like?"
"It switches back and forth between ‘oh-lee-oh-wee,’ and ‘eee-oh-leee’."
"What else do you hear?"
"A Northern Cardinal. It goes ‘purdee purdee purdee,’ ‘cheer cheer cheer,’ whoit whoit whoit.’ And over there is an Eastern Meadowlark. I tell can by the ‘seeoo, ‘seeyeer’ tune."
"Thank you for bringing to my ears a world I could see, but never hear!" she said


"What’s that funny looking instrument in the violin case?" she said, back at the motel. "Looks kinda like a violin, only different."
"That’s a reproduction of an old medieval fiddle.
"Do you play?"
"I’m not very good, but when I’m by myself I make sport upon my rebec."
"Looks like you’re quite the classical music buff," she said, flipping through his carrying case.
"I love music because it brings an unseen world to my sightless eyes. When friends describe the turning of the autumn leaves, or the flowers in spring, I can hear them turning and falling and budding and blossoming in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. When friends talk about a boat ride on down a placid stream, I think of Ravel’s ‘Le Cygne.’ When friends tell me about a tree-lined trail on a lazy summer day, it sounds like a Brahms organ chorale I know: ‘O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid.’ When the radio is reporting on some natural disaster, I think back to the ten plagues of Egypt in Handel’s oratorio."


"If I could see your room, what would I see?" he asked?
"My bed, of course, and chest of drawers. A bookshelf and a writing desk. A window overlooking the garden, and a painting over the bed."
"Did you paint it yourself?"
"No, it’s a reproduction of an old painting by Rembrandt on The sacrifice of Isaac."
"Describe it to me, so that I can see it through your eyes."
"The painting is very dark, which highlights the face of Abraham, the angel, and the prostrate body of Isaac. Isaac is stripped down to the waist, with his arms bound behind his back--utterly vulnerable. His bare neck is pulled back to slit open like a chicken’s throat. The patriarch covers the eyes and lips of Isaac with his hand so that his son cannot see the fatal blow coming or cry out in fear.

The figures are backlit by the light of heaven as the angel appears. The dagger falls from Abraham’s hand as the angel stays his hand at the very last moment. The angel and the patriarch make eye-contact while Isaac is blind to the both the danger and deliverance. Rembrandt’s own son posed for Isaac."

"I’ve heard the story before, but never imagined it before. Thank you for giving me eyes to see what my ears could hear."


"The least I can do is drive you to the airport," she said.
"Don’t put yourself out on my account," he said.
"But that’s the fun part! We don’t have to like what we have to do, but we have to like what we don’t have to do."
"Does the noise of the airport bother you?"
"It’s a smallish airport. We only get some commuter planes a few times a day. So it’s pretty quiet most of the time. To me, it’s the sound of freedom."
"Don’t you like living here?"
"I like the idea of seeing the world. Hearing the planes come and go makes me think about the world around me. But I’m content to travel in my imagination--in books and paintings. What about you?"
"It’s okay, I guess. I have nothing to keep me there. I guess I stay there out of habit."
"No girlfriend?" she said
"A blind-man is not on the A-list of women seeking men!"
"Depends on the type. What’s yours?"
"Well, for most men, the first thing they look for is looks. I can’t do that, so I notice other things."
"Such as?"
"Such as her voice, her perfume, the texture of her hair. It reminds me of an old poem."
"How does it go--do you remember?"
"Let’s see...

Her wearied wings, which so restored did fly
Above the stars—a track unknown and high—,
And in her piercing flight perfumed the air,
Scattering the myrrh and incense of his prayer;
So from Jacob’s well some spicy cloud—,
Wooed by the sun—swells up to be his shroud,
That—scattered in a thousand pearls—each flower
And herb partakes; where having stood awhile,
And somewhat cooled the parched and thirsty isle,
The thankful earth unlocks herself, and blends
A thousand odors which, all mixed, she sends
Upward in a cloud, and so returns the skies
That dew they lent, a breathing sacrifice."

"That’s beautiful. But it would be hard for any girl to compete with that!"
"Well, that's the stuff of poetry. Every man has a girl of his dreams, but he cannot make love to a dream, so he settles for something more tangible!"
"I know what you mean. Girls have fantasies to! The problem is when we wed the fantasy instead of the man! Should I drop you off at the curb or park the car and walk you to the terminal?"
"The curb will do nicely."
"Come back sometime...sometime soon."
"Yes, I think I will."

Heaven on a Dime


For some six thousand years and counting, the Old Serpent had been plotting his revenge, prodding and testing for any chink into which to pry a curly horn or forked tail. Yet heaven’s defensive perimeter proved to be impregnable--until recently, that is. But Bill Gates, after a long and lucrative career, and despite the best in life-extension technology, had lately suffered a change of address from his waterfront estate to a little patch of Tophet.

Actually, his new address was, for a time, a matter of no small disputation. He was originally assigned to the eighth circle of pimps and seducers owing to his patronage of assorted homosexual causes. But after vigorous plea-bargaining between the High Council of Pandemonium and his old legal team--which naturally enough shared the very same Zip Code--he was able to cop a plea for lodgings in the fourth circle of hell, in the company of the merely avaricious, in exchange for a new software program.

The new program was designed to infect heaven’s mainframe with a virus which would erase the names in the book of life and inscribe the names of the damned in their place.

However, heaven’s firewall was so effective that the actual extent of the damage was both quite circumscribed and short-lived. Why, I’ve even been told by one anonymous, but high-placed source, that this was a celestial sting-operation: the hellish host were allowed to hack into a low-security system in order to smoke out the core insurgents and keep infernal unrest at acceptable levels of mayhem and madness--lest Gehenna go to hell in a hand-basket.

And, indeed, shortly after this fiendishly clever exercise in ID theft was caught and prosecuted, Mr. Gates was promptly transferred from the fourth circle to a lower rung of the eighth circle, among the common thieves, well below the pimps and seducers.


One temporary consequence of the sting operation is that a few smalltimers like Tony Romano did enjoy a brief layover in Abraham’s bosom--if "enjoy" is quite the right word--before their final destination. Last thing Tony remembers was being turned into a human fountain after he got caught using marked cards in a friendly little game of five card stud. Next thing he knows, he finds himself queued up in the customs line of Zion International Airport.

"Anything to declare?" said a beefy looking cherub in a blue uniform. Too flustered by it all to answer, Tony stood there, slack-jawed. The cherub motioned Tony to go through a portal--setting off a metal detector.
"All firearms must be checked at the front desk," the cherub said rather brusquely, pointing to a sign over his head. Fishing a forty-five out of his sock, Tony meekly handed over the weapon.
"Pistols in the blue bin, Uzis in the black bin!" the cherub snapped. After disposing of his weapon, Tony waited for further instructions.
"Okay, time to strip," said the cherub, matter-of-factly.
"Strip?" said Tony. "You mean, strip search--right here in front of God and everybody? I got rights, ya know!" he snarled in his shrill Chicago accent.
The cherub starred at him uncomprehendingly, then shoved a frilly white robe in his face. "Changing rooms are over there. Oh, and don’t forget your sandals!"


As Tony exited the airport, he was greeted by Michael and Gabriel. "Mr. Romano," said Michael, extending his hand. "Welcome to the New Jerusalem."
Nervously shaking his hand, Tony said, "How come you know my name? Are you with the FBI or something?"
"I’m not quite sure what you have in mind," said Gabriel. "We’re members of the orientation committee. Every newcomer is assigned a tour guide for the first few days to get his bearings. Heaven is a big place, you know!"
Tony responded with a tight smile. Not for a moment was he taken in by their holier-than-thou airs. Hey, he wasn’t some babe in the woods. He’d been around the block a few times. Heaven was just another scam. Their unctuous demeanor was only a pious front. Every angel had an angle, and the trick was for him to keep up appearances while getting them to drop the pose.


"So, Mr. Romano," said Gabriel, "what’s the first thing you’d like to see?"
"Wasn’t there something about gold-paved streets and pearl-studded gates?" Tony asked. "Or was that just a fairy tale?"
"Not at all," said Michael. "Let’s take you to the main entrance."
Michael emitted a whistle in acuti, and a taxi immediately pulled up to the curb. "To the pearly gates," said Gabriel.
The taxi dropped them off at the curb of New Eden Municipal Park. Birds were singing. Lions and lambs were playfully chasing one another. The river flowed with milk and honey. The trees were abud with golden apples and gemstones.
"Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?" said Gabriel.
"I guess so," said Tony. "But just think what a developer could do with a lot like this? You could put the condos over here, a shopping center with a Wall-Mart and MacDonalds over there."
They continued their stroll through the park until they reached the main gate, encrusted with pearls. Tony was temporarily bedazzled, but then said, "Where are the cops and the security cameras?"
His question drew blank stare. "What do you mean," Michael asked?
"How do you keep folks from stealing the goodies?"
"This is heaven, remember?" said Gabriel, shaking his dreadlocks.
"Oh, yeah, how could I ever forget," said Tony.


"Tony, how’d you like to attend a concern tonight?" Gabriel asked.
"I guess so," said Tony. "Who’s on the bill?"
"Vivaldi has written a brand-new Gloria for the occasion. I’m doing the trumpet accompaniment," said Gabriel. "And Uriel will play a Handel harp concerto. Ever since Handel got his sight back he’s been composing at a furious pace. Mendelssohn is working overtime just to keep apace!"
"And Raphael even commissioned Bach to compose a solo cantata for the occasion," Michael said. "If you think Joan Sutherland has a swell high C, just wait till you hear Raphael’s C above high C!"


Tony stumbled out of the concerned hall, bleary-eyed and blinking in the bright light. "I thought you said this was an evening concert?" Tony exclaimed.
"Oh, in heaven, night-time words are just a figure of speech," Michael explained.
"Your attention seemed to drift a bit half-way through the harp concerto," said Gabriel.
"It’s not the kind of music I’m used to," Tony said. "Hey there, Mickey. Does Peggy Lee ever sing here?"
"I think she’s in the ‘other’ place," said Michael, looking down.
"Too bad!" Tony exclaimed. "I don’t suppose you ever heard her sing, ‘I got it bad, and that ain’t good?’?"
"Can’t say I have," Michael said.
"Me neither!" said Gabriel.
"Well, you gotta admit she had a great pair a-knockers and gams," said Tony, jabbing Gabriel in the ribs and winking at Michael.
"The angels exchanged quizzical stares," so Tony kept on winking and making hourglass gestures with his hands.
"Mr. Romano," Michael said. "Your eye is twitching. Do you have a speck in your eye, or is that just a natural tick?
"Are you angels always so serious?" Tony asked, in a tone of exasperation.
"To the contrary," said Gabriel, "we have a highly developed sense of humor. You just need to get to know us a little better. Why, only last week, Tobit told a hilarious joke about Calabi-Yau space!"
"If you don’t mind," said Tony, "I’d like to be alone for a while."


Tony found his way back to the garden. When no one was looking, he began to pry pearls free from the gate with a box-cutter he smuggled out of the airport. He was so immersed in his work that he didn’t hear Gabriel glide up from behind and tap him on the shoulder.
He spun around, pearls flying every which way.
"Holy smokes!" he exclaimed. "You near ‘bout scared me to death, sneaking up like that!"
"Pardon me for asking," said Michael," but why are you chipping away at the pearls?"
"Well, it’s them pearls were a little...a little smudgy--yes, smudgy, that’s what they were! And so I was just trying to polish 'em up a bit before gluing 'em back, you see!" said Tony.
"That’s very considerate of you," said Michael, "but there’s really no need. We have cleaning crews to dust and polish."
"You mean," said Tony, you have to go work even after you get to heaven?"
"Naturally!" Michael exclaimed. "Of course, union rules exempt the cherubim and seraphim from the more menial tasks, but the heavenly host keeps everything spick-and-span on a rotational basis: Thrones on Mondays, Dominations on Tuesdays, Virtues on Wednesdays, Powers on Thursdays, Principalities on Fridays, as well as angels and archangels on Saturdays."
"Sounds undemocratic to me!" Tony exclaimed.
"Didn’t you ever read Dionysius? I guess the public school system must be even worse than it’s rumored to be! Why, the division of labor is all laid out in his book on the Celestial Hierarchy. He may be off on a detail or two, but for an earthling, he did a bang-up job."
"And it works in reverse too, you know," said Gabriel. "In that 'other' place there's a sort of upside down meritocracy--the badder the better!"
"What do you do on Sunday?" Tony asked
"Sunday is appointed for public and private worship, precinding all worldly employments and recreations, save for works of mercy and necessity" Gabriel solemnly intoned.


"Hey, Gabe! All you angels look alike," said Tony. " Don’t you have any girly-girl angels?
"No, angels are sexless, said Gabriel.
"Does that mean you don’t have...well, can’t, you know, do it?"
"Do it?" Gabriel asked.
"Don’t you dudes know plain English?" Tony said, turning testy.
"We’re doing the best we can," said Gabriel. "I’m afraid the universal translator is off-line at the moment."
"How do you communicate when you’re sent on a mission down under?" Tony asked.
"We have a heavenly Berlitz school to bone up on conversational English, Coptic, Sumerian, Sanskrit, Akkadian, Hebrew, Linear B, Church Latin, French, Hindi, Mandarin, and so on. But a crash-course doesn’t cover all the choice colloquialisms."
"Oh, I think I know what he’s getting at," said Michael, blushing slightly. "It’s a question of protocol. There was an old case involving the sons of God taking the daughters of men to wife, but those were fallen angels, you understand!"
"I’m getting a little thirsty," Tony said. "Maybe you guys could fetch me a drink from the river"


Having given his angelic escort the slip, Tony made a b-line for Mainstreet. When Michael and Gabriel caught up with him, he had set up a concession stand where he was hawking gold bricks.

Gabriel took one look at the sign--brick sale: buy one, get one free--and asked, "Buy one with what? No one has money in heaven!"
"Now you put your finger on the problem!" Tony exclaimed. "Everybody here is broke, plain broke. The management keeps all of you dumb schmucks in the poor-house!"
"I’m afraid you’re rather missing the main point," said Michael. "We don’t have money because we don’t need money. Everything here is simply priceless!"
"That don’t make no sense!" Tony growled. "If it’s free it’s worthless! What do you take me for? Some sort a chump? I’m nobody’s fool! You can’t dupe me with your pie-in-the-sky platitudes. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Every man has his price!"
"What we take you for is very much the question of the hour," said Gabriel. "I understand that new arrivals are often a bit befuddled by the razzle-dazzle novelty of it all, but if I didn’t know better I’d almost suspect that you didn’t belong here at all! At the very least we may need to schedule you for some nouthetic counseling!"
"Michael, any word yet from the higher ups?" Gabriel then asked.
"The com-system is still down," Michael answered.
Just then Abdiel descended from on high, with a pair of seraphic bar-bouncers at his side.
"You're quite correct, brother Gabriel," Abdiel said. "He doesn’t belong here."
"Well, that explains a lot," Michael said, "but why were we not informed?"
"Information was made available on a need-to-know basis," Abdiel. "Entrapment only works if affected parties are kept in the dark. We’ll be holding a press conference shortly."

Then Abdiel gestured to the seraphim, who seized Tony, arm-in-arm, hauled him over to the ledge of the New Jerusalem, and threw him over the side. Tony let out a great wailing cry as he sank like a rock.

This happened many years ago, or so I’m told, but since the bottomless pit is--well--bottomless, I reckon that Tony is still falling to this day.

Painted Devil


"Hey, Jacobi," Malak said.
"Captain, what’s up?" Jacobi said, answering his cell phone.
"There’s been another murder. Check it out!"


"What have we got?" Jacobi says to the coroner.
"According to the wallet, this is the late Martin Tours."
"What else?"
"Just like the other four," said the coroner, pulling back the victim’s shirt. "See ‘Legion’ carved into the chest?"
"Same MO. But the way the papers have been playing up ‘The Legion Killer,’ could be a copy-cat murder as well."
"After I get back to the lab I’ll page you if I turn anything up."
"Anything else?"
"This is not the primary crime scene. The victim was executed elsewhere and dumped in the alley to cover his tracks."
"Also consistent with the ‘The Legion Killer.’ Well, I’ll go knock on doors."


"Pastor Morgenstern--I saw your name on the plaque outside," said Jacobi.
"Yes, that’s right," he said, shaking Jacobi's hand. And you are..."
"Inspector Jacobi," he said, flashing his badge. "I’m a homicide detective."
"Ah, this must be about the crime scene down the street," said Morgenstern.
"Sorry to interrupt."
"No problem! You boys continue with your singing while Inspector Jacobi and I have a little chat."
"Have you ever seen this man before?" showing him a photo of the victim, as the choir went about rehearsing Mendelssohn's "Es wird ein Stern aus Jacob" in the background.
"Can’t say that I have. "What’s his name?"
"Michael Tours."
"Doesn’t ring a bell. Sorry I can’t be more helpful."
"Maybe you can. Does the name of ‘Legion’ mean anything to you?"
"’Legion’ was the name of a demoniac on whom our Lord performed an exorcism. Does this have anything to do with the ‘Legion Killer’?"
"I see you’ve been following the news."
"To be honest, I don’t have time to keep up with all the headlines--but word gets around. I get most of my info from the parishioners".
"Still, if the killer took the name of a...of a...what was that again?"
"Of a demoniac."
"Yes, of a demoniac," Jacobi continued, "then it might have some ritual angle. That could be helpful."
"What were the names of the other victims?"
"Max, Dennis, Diomedes, and Steven."
"That reminds me of something, but I can’t quite place it at the moment."
"Here’s my card. If you remember, give me a call."


"Ah, Inspector Jacobi. I guess you got me message. But you didn’t have to make a special trip."
"No problem. I’m not finished canvassing the neighborhood. So what did you have to tell me?"
"Well, this may only be a coincidence, but the five names you gave me correspond to the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus."
"The Seven Sleepers of...what?"
"It’s a feast-day, based on an old legend. During the reign of the Emperor Decius, seven saintly young men hid in a cave to escape imperial persecution. The authorities walled up the entrance. But when the cave was unsealed several centuries later, they walked out alive—not having aged a day."
"What were the other two names?"
"Antonio and Constantine."
"So, assuming that the killer is following this blueprint, that would leave two more victims--by the names of Antonio and Constantine."
"Looks like you need to spend some time in the phone book."
"I wish I had some cue as to when he was going to strike next."
"When were the five victims killed?"
"Let’s see," said Jacobi, flipping through his notebook, "Mon-day...Tuesday...Wednesday...Thursday...Friday."
"So he’s killing a victim for each day of the week."
"And in that order,which leaves Saturday and Sunday. What’s the connection?"
"Off-hand, I can’t say."


"Jacobi," answering the phone.
"Yes, this is Pastor Morgenstern."
"Good to hear from you."
"I was thinking some more about the days of the week. The only connection I can see is numerical...the seven sleepers of Asia, the seven days of the week."
"Well, that’s another coincidence."
"May be more than a coincidence, especially if, as you say, the murders have a ritual angle."
"How so?"
"Seven is a highly significant figure in Judeo-Christian numerology: the seven-day crea-tion, the seven-day week, the seventh day of rest, the sabbatical year, the seven weeks from Passover to Pentecost, the seven devils cast out of Mary Magdalene, the sevenfold sprinkling of blood, the seven-pronged Menorah, the seven-day feast of Tabernacles and unleavened bread, Enoch as the seventh from Adam, the year of Jubilee, New Year on the seventh month. The Book of Revelation is chock-full of sevens."


"What have we got?" Jacobi said to the coroner?
"According to the wallet, this is the late Antonio Padua."
"Number six...that leaves one more to go."
"How do you mean?"
"This is a serial killer with seven designated targets."
"Then it should be possible to catch him before he kills again."
"I’m afraid it’s not that easy. I've only got first names, not last names. Have any idea many ‘Antonios’ live in a city this size?"
"I see your problem."


"Pastor Morgenstern, can I come in?" Jacobi asked, poking his head into the study.
"Why, of course! Any break in the case?"
"I don’t know. I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams lately."
"What kind of dreams?"
"In my dreams I’m being shadowed by a seven-headed, seven-horned monster."
"What does its face look like?"
"Can’t tell. When I turn around I only see the back of its head."
"The case is getting to you. That’s only natural."
"But there’s more."
"Go on."
"I also see it during the the rearview mirror, or washroom mirror, or storefront window. But when I turn my head it vanishes from view."
"Do you see its face then?"
"Just a fleeting glimpse."
"What did it look like? Some diabolical fiend?"
"No, almost angelic. I mean, the face itself, if you leave out the horns and all, could pass for one of your choirboys. A little older, but that same innocent demeanor."
"I guess that makes sense. The best way to beguile is to be without guile."
"But what do you make of it all?"
"Well, that is uncanny--that’s for sure. But given the occultic aroma of the case, it’s not altogether surprising. You stand astride two worlds--of sense and spirit."
"Either that or an undigested apple-dumpling!"


"Morgenstern here" he said, answering the phone.
"It’s Jacobi again. I've had another nightmare."
"Was it like the others?" Morgenstern asked.
"Yes, except that this time I was able to make out more background detail."
"What did you see?"
"It looked like a boarded up old church. You know, Gothic arches…stained glass windows, but broken and cobwebby."
"Anything stand out?"
"There was a sign...hard to remember now...something like St. Elizabeth."
"That’s the name of an old abandoned church in Chinatown."
"Funny, I don’t recall seeing anything like that down there."
"That’s because it was painted over a long time ago and turned into restaurant, which, I think, went out of business just recently. In any event, you should check out your premo-nition."


"Sir, are you hurt?" Jacobi asked, as he untied a bound-and-gagged man inside St. Eliza-beth.
"I’ll be fine now that you arrived," he said.
"May I ask you name?"
"Steve...Steven Nichols."
"This is Inspector Jacobi," he said, dialing his cellphone. "Send a squad car and ambu-lance to the Fortune Cookie restaurant on the corner of Broadway and Easy Street. Mr. Nichols, you stay here while I step outside for a moment."
"Hey you--freeze!" Jacobi shouted, drawing his service revolver and pointing right at a jaywalker whose face resembled the face in his visions.


"Harry Hesper," Jacobi said, looking across the table from the suspect in the interrogation room. "According to my file here, you’re a seminary drop-out."
"That's right."
"Was serial murder part of the curriculum?"
"You might call it an elective course" Hesper said, smirking.
"So why'd you drop out? Loose your faith?"
"No, I found my calling."
"I see. Is this another one of those Antichrist conspiracies to destroy the world as we know it?"
"No, to save the world."
"Saving by killing?"
"A necessary evil."
"How so?"
"In the Koran it is written that seven sleepers portend the end of the world."
"But wasn’t that centuries ago? They're all dead and buried by now."
"No, they’re immortal. That’s the point of the story. They can’t die of natural causes."
"How'd you find them, anyway?"
"Seven angels appeared to me in a vision."
"But what’s the connection between the seven sleepers and the seven days of the week?"
"It’s all goes back to the mystery of the seven stars."
"The mystery of the seven stars?"
"Yes, the mystery of the seven stars. If you read in Revelations, the seven sleepers are the seven well as the seven angels of the seven churches."
"That's all there?" Jacobi asked?
"Well, not the part about the seven sleepers--not in so many words, exactly, but John the Revelator lived in Ephesus, and addressed his prophecy to the church of Ephesus…oh, and the temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the world. The number seven--that's the key!"
"But what’s that got to do with the days of the week?"
"Isn’t it obvious?" Hesper exclaimed. "The days of the week were named after the seven planets--Monday for the moon, Tuesday for Mars, Wednesday for Mercury, Thursday for Jupiter, Friday for Venus, Saturday for Saturn, and Sunday for the sun."
"Okay then, what now?"
"Now the world comes to an end. I failed! Thanks to you, I failed! You kept me from completing my mission!" Hesper cried. "The sun will be black as sackcloth, the moon blood-red, and the stars shall fall from heaven."


"So, what happens now," Morgenstern asked, standing in the sanctuary. "Will he face the death penalty?"
"He won't be around that long," Jacobi answered.
"How come?"
"He suffered a seizure while in custody."
"What was the cause?"
"A head-scan revealed brain cancer. So much for that hokum and bunkum about angelic apparitions!"
"Well, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. You’re welcome to stop in any time. Why not pick up a program on the way out?"

In the narthex, Jacobi pauses to peruse a program, begins to pocket a copy, then decides to put it back on the table. In the distance the choir is rehearsing the "Dies Irae" from Mozart's Requiem Mass.

Getting into is car, Jacobi switches the radio on as he drives out of the lot. "...the Packers beat the Red Sox 32-16. Tomorrow’s forecast: clear and sunny. Oh, and that reminds me--for all you amateur astronomy buffs, we’ve got a rare conjunction the next few days with a solar eclipse, followed by a lunar eclipse, followed by a meteor shower. And now for a message from our sponsor at Ace Auto Body-Shop..."

The Pearly Gates


Roxanne, or "Roxy," as all her friends knew her, was more concerned about her eyeliner than the yellow line as she swerved into the opposing lane. Approaching the tunnel from the other end was a sleepy semi-truck driver.

Roxy was bound for Vegas, eager to see her name up in lights. Marilyn Monroe she wasn’t, but with a bit of judicious padding and truckloads of steely determination, she was sure the world would be bowled over by her irresistible charm.

But somewhere between the yellow line and the dark tunnel, her aspirations to greatness took an unexpected turn.


Next thing she knew, she is standing, dazed and unsteady, with singed dress and tangled hair, in a washed-out no-man’s land, like a TV screen with the contrast knob turned to zero.

After a few moments, the fluffy mist began to dissipate, and in the near distance she saw a sparkling city, looking like Vegas, only bigger and brighter, with more moreness than ever before.
"Well I’ll be damned!" she said, bowled-over by it all. As she was gazing at this great glittery bauble in the sky, a white-suited, well-tanned gentleman approached her:

"My dear Roxanne," he said, in a mellifluous foreign accent, "your limousine awaits you!"
"How do you know my name?"
"Why, your reputation precedes you!"
"Oh, you silver-tongued devil you!" she exclaimed, blushing, giggling, and batting her eyelids all at once. "But did I really make it to the place upstairs?"
"Well, ever since the Copernican Revolution, up-and-down is pretty relative. But you might call this is a dream come true!" He then extended his arm, which she took, and walked with him to the stretched limo.
"Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like what’s-his-name in Fantasy Island?"
"It wouldn’t be the first time," he answered, with a wry smile and a twinkle in the eye.


Inside the limo an angel choir was playing on the radio. Mr. Roarke, or whatever his name really was, offered her a glass of bubbly. Roxy couldn’t tell if the car was driving, gliding or floating in mid-air. When they arrived at the Ritz hotel, Roarke escorted her to the express elevator.
"Where am I going? she asked?
"The penthouse suite has been reserved for you," Roarke answered.
"All that for me?" she said?
"Is it not written, ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions’?" Roarke said.

The glass elevator seemed to ascend forever as they passed through the pink, puffy clouds on the way up. In the suite itself, a small army of beefy, bare-chested manservants tended to her every whim.

That night she stayed in the suite, to clean up and rest up after her accident. She took a champagne bath in her solid-gold bathtub and went straight to bed.

Combing out her hair in the morning, she found out that this was no ordinary comb, but a magic comb with different settings. Depending on which setting she chose, the comb would make her hair come out looking like Farah Fawcett, Maureen O’Hara, Jean Harlow, Veronica Lake, or Marie Antoinette.

She also discovered a pair of magic dance-slippers with several different settings that made her dance as well as Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell, Cyd Charisse, and Margot Fonteyn.


The next day she went to the Monte Carlo casino. Roxy was given a million bucks worth of chips as seed money. Every hand she was dwelt was a royal flush. Every throw of the dice came up sixes. Every yank of the one-armed bandit hit the jackpot.

On the first night alone it took a dozen wheelbarrows just to haul all the loot back to the penthouse suite. After the first week, a whole floor of the hotel was set aside to store her winnings.


The day after that she went to Bloomingdale’s. Roxy was issued a Bloomingdale card with an unlimited credit line of credit. It took another dozen wheelbarrows to haul all the diamond rings and emerald earrings and jade bracelets and pearly necklaces and gold brooches back to the penthouse suite, not to mention three semi-trucks to transport all the fur coats.

Because she couldn’t bring herself to choose between the white mink coat, the brown mink coat, and the black mink coat, or between the mink coat with chinchilla trimming and the chinchilla coat with mink trimming, she bought the whole rack. Fortunately for her, the walk-in closet the size of an airplane hanger.

Due to rear-round climate control, the air outside stayed at 70 degrees day and night. So she had to lower the thermostat in her suite just to get a chance to wear her mink and leopard coats.


The day after that she went to the Chez Piggerie restaurant. There she was delighted to find that every gourmet dishe had zero carbs. She could gobble down a twelve-course meal and never gain an ounce. What was more, she could swig as much bubbly as she liked and never wake up with a hangover.


The day after that she went to see Christian Dior. Instead of taking her measurements and then tailoring a form-fitting dress, Dior handed her a catalogue from which she could simply pick out a slinky evening dress, and whatever dress she put on would magically conform her figure to the contours of Dolly Parton.


The day after that, she went to the Sands, where she was invited onto the stage to do a concert. The microphone had ten different settings. Depending on which setting she chose, she would sound exactly like Julie Andrews, Marlene Dietrich, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Peggy Lee, Loretta Lynn, Bernadette Peters, Barbara Streisand, Joan Sutherland, or Sarah Vaughn.

She even got to dance with Fred Astaire and Rudolf Valentino, as well as sing with Frank Sinatra and Evis Presley.


The day after she went to see Richard Avalon. Here she sat to have her picture taken. She could have her picture taken with Cary Grant, Santa Claus, or Jesus. Well, it was really Jeffrey Hunter, but he looked just like Jesus is supposed to look.

She got to sit on Santa’s lap and ask for three wishes. And whatever she asked for was instantly granted by a band of winged chambermaids. "All this and Jesus too!" she shouted out loud!

Wherever she went she was feted like a diva, with an entourage of paparazzi and autograph-seekers. She was truly in seventh-heaven.


A week later she went back to the casino. Roxy was given another million bucks worth of chips as seed money. Every hand she was dwelt was a royal flush. Every throw of the dice came up sixes. Every yank of the one-armed bandit hit the jackpot.


The day after that she went back to Bloomingdale’s. Once again it took a dozen wheelbarrows to haul all the diamond rings and emerald earrings and jade bracelets and pearly necklaces and gold brooches back to the penthouse suite, not to mention three semi-trucks to transport all the fur coats. The walk-in closet was getting to be a bit crowded.


The day after that she went back to Chez Piggerie, where she had another twelve-course meal consisting of caviar, escargot and Brie for the appetizer; followed by fillet mignon, veal Marsala, venison, rack-of-lamb, Australian lobster, wild boar, king crab, grilled salmon, poached sole, scampi, and breast of pheasant; topped off with chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, and French cheese for desert; and all washed down with five bottles of bubbly.


The day after that she went back to Dior to flip through the latest catalogue.


The day after that, she went back to the Sands to do another concert.


The day after she went back to Avalon to do another photo shoot.


After a few more weeks of this, she summoned Mr. Roarke to her suite. "My dear Roxane," he said, "so very good to see you again."
"I wish I could say the same!"
"What’s the matter?"
"For the first few weeks I was afraid that living here was just too good to be true."
"And now?"
"And now I’m afraid that living here is just too true to be good."
"Whatevery do you mean?"
"Well, for one thing, I won the jackpot last night."
"What’s wrong with that?
"The lady sitting to my right won the jackpot as well, while the lady sitting to my left won the jackpot too! Where’s the fun in that?"
"I see your point!"
"Another thing--I can never turn off that damn angel choir! It plays day and night, everywhere I go--whether I'm in the limo, elevator, suite, casino, restaurant, nightclub…there's no off-switch. I can't even turn the volume down to get by beauty sleep!"
"Yes, I can see how irritating that might be."
"I feel like I’m caught between the devil and the deep blue see. If this is the best you can do, I’d rather be in that ‘other’ place, if you catch my drift."
"Where in hell do you think you've been all this time?"