the grand interlocutor
They ran through Paris touching the stones, cobblestones, stone walls, carved bridge foundation stones, stone-molded archways and passages, café brownstone, Louvre marble, a sculpted stairs, the river of pavés that surged among houses, down alleys, through courtyards, beneath Les Halles. They brushed antiquity with their fingers, carried away some part on their skin. The stones were older than anything Jimmy knew except the sequoias in Muir Woods, older than his ancient home in St. Louis, older than the country of his birth, whose borders he had never crossed before. Villon slept here, Danton, Descartes.
— Stones? Aren't these people in Paris for a meeting?
Who wants to know?
— The Grand Interlocutor.
This is a struggle over the nature of reality. It begins and ends with stones, without whom there would be no humans to speak of.
—Where was this meeting held?
In a chateau (all stone buildings in Paris were chateaux to Jimmy) owned by the Hungarian government in the bourgeois style he assumed was required by the world-diplomacy game. After greetings and toasts, the Hungarians stayed away, no doubt at the request of the Vietnamese.
From Vietnam, the “Viet Cong,” men and women in their 30s who exhibited the humility and startling grace that humbled all who met with them, even Henry Kissinger. One escaped from a Saigon prison during Tet, her left arm useless, its muscles torture-torn and withered. Another walked north for a month from the Mekong Delta to attend. They were earthy, warm, humorous, relaxed, often ribald. They acted as if they were winning a war.
From the United States, anti-war activists in their 20s, two of them Vietnam vets, who appeared at first impression — compared to the Vietnamese — barbarians. They wore their ragged individualism like a native garment, could barely hide their disdain for protocol, and exhibited political Brownian Motion, a directness in all directions. Nervous, excitable, fevered, honest, they acted as if they were losing a war.
— What misconceptions did each side bring to the table?
The Americans thought the Vietnamese would be lean, intense, ascetic, teetotalling, Marxist slogan-spouting bureaucrats, formal and severe.
The Vietnamese thought the Americans could see beyond the immediate moment, agreed on what they were doing, had an analysis of political forces in their own country, a strategy, or at least a set of related ideas.
— How could such a mish-mosh meet?
By curiosity, displacement, and charm. A style of discourse, part Vietnamese, part American, emerged through rapid adjustments, characterized by what it was not, for it was new-minted to both, a conversation between old friends who had never met. They sat at the table like construction workers from opposite ends of the world who used unfamiliar materials (bamboo, redwood) and methods (mortise and tenon, nails), desirous to build a common house: When you organize a demonstration what’s the first thing you do, what’s the second, how do you decide, who are your friends and how do you know, suppose the police attack you, what’s the worst mistake you made, how does what we do affect you, what arguments do you use, what arguments should we employ, tell us why the California Highway Patrol refused to attack you, tell us why the village leaders came over to your side. Tell us how to talk to those with whom we are in combat. That’s incredible, you really did that?
— What equal and opposite misunderstandings were revealed?
Jimmy asked how the NLF moved in and out of Saigon. He pictured trenches, concertina wire, gun towers.
“No, I mean how do you get past the Saigon soldiers?”
“I myself wear long hair, glasses, and a puppet army uniform. Sometimes we come up to a guardhouse and say, Hello, we’re from the National Liberation Front, let us pass or we’ll wipe you out.”
“What do they do?”
“They say, Go on in, go on in.”
A Vietnamese asked how the Americans coordinated activities between the cities and the countryside.
“Yes. That is the right word? Outside the cities.”
“We have no countryside.”
“We have suburbs. And further out, farms.”
“Where the peasants are.”
“They’re all Republicans, I think. Those are the towns we ran away from..”
“The Army,” said a vet. “The Army’s where we organize the countryside.”
— What aid and comfort did each side give the enemy?
None, for they were not enemies.
Immeasurable. Unmeasured. Measureless.
— What then?
What then? What is always then, the rest of the story. Jimmy will discover he is in Paris for two conferences, one with the Vietnamese, another with reality. Together they embody the Congress of Entanglement.
— Where is this so-called other conference?
It opened at a café near the Odéon where Jimmy waited for Michelle. “Watch your back,” she warned him, “the fascists roam the Left Bank looking for people like you to beat up.”
“What is it? My boots?”
“And your dark attitude, mon amour.” She had cut her hair gamin-style; she was slipping Frenchward.
“And don’t yell Remember Dienbienphu! at men in black leather coats, I suppose.”
She had kissed him on the cheek, rubbed her forehead against his shoulder. They had not slept together in Paris.
He bought an International Herald Tribune to disguise himself as a tourist while he waited. The cobblestones of the café spilled into the street, eddied about a church on the opposite bank, forming a kind of plaza. He ordered a beer.
“N’avons pas la biére américaine.”
“Um, quelque avez. S’il vous plaît.” That’s it; four years of French gets me a beer. Soviet Troops Maneuver on Czech Border, the Tribune reported. He stretched his legs, set his left bootheel on a cobblestone, perched the heel of his right boot on the square toe of the left, James Dean style. Czechoslovakia felt nearer than his native land, a pale outline on an old map, a place filled with animals which men had not yet learned how to hunt.
— ‘Cobblestone,’ thought Jimmy. Where does that word come from?
— C'est pavé. And what are you? A “device for committing human error?”
— You claim you’re not a cobblestone? said Jimmy, moving his boot off the speaker.
— Given your alienation from the non-human world, it’s a wonder you're not all insane. It’s a wonder you walk and talk.
— Says who? A water-worn paving stone?
— Ah no, young man. You are too simple. You might have said a thousand things. For example, thus —
Pitying: ‘I knew your father, a great quarry-face. Not quite a chip off the old block are you, little fellow?'
Revolutionary: ‘We counted on you during the Paris Commune, but no, you sat there in silent heaps while the troops slaughtered us.’
Nannylike: ‘Have you nothing better to do than bask in the sun and trip babies?’
Depressed: ‘All you do is make my footsteps sound more lonely'.
— I apologize.
— Actually, I hate Rostand. I am a delegate.
— So am I.
— Of the collective of humans and non-humans.
— That would include, generally speaking, everything?
— Un garçon vif. We are here for the Congress of Entanglement. We are always here. You flit about.
— Am I supposed to know you?
— We worked together in Oakland. Cement bus benches, potted trees, cars with flattened tires, a coke bottle, a hubcap, a plywood shield, mattresses, a tractor-trailer, a refrigerator on which all the payments had not been made. Or were you too arrogant to notice? Did you think your Stop the Draft Week was between two naked groups of humans on a bare stage?
— You were also our enemies. I remember Army buses, nightsticks, Chemical Mace.
— We too have our right wing. We will talk more. Without us, you are all abandoned babies. Your friend approaches. Welcome.
— That was brief.
— What did Jimmy acquire from his conference with humans?
The concept of strategy. Chuck Morris would be proud.
The Vietnamese inquired what was the American strategy for the upcoming demonstrations at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. As children of a settler state poisoned by a centenarian strategy of Go West and Kill Whatever Gets in Your Way, they shied from strategy. Their culture of protest emphasized pragmatic moralism: one organized like-minded people to protest and when the protest was done one discussed what to do next. Strategy implied power, which Jimmy and his peers distrusted, including their own, so when the question came at them across the bottles of mineral water and packs of Dien Bien Phu cigarettes, they burst in all directions, a regular firework of vectors.
A vector is a quantity that has direction. Cobblestones on the rue Gay-Lussac are not vectors until they are thrown at police. A single step along a sidewalk is a vector. So is a political group in action. The delegates spoke for groups of people (quantities) in social movements (direction). In physics, vectors are represented by a letter in boldface: thus (V) the NLF of South Vietnam and (A) the radical antiwar movement in America. V and A were not equal. To be equal, two vectors must have the same size and direction, and they did not. Doesn’t mathematical notation wonderfully simplify reality? Reality is under study here.
For several days in Paris V and A ran parallel, which was revolutionary. In what other war have citizens of a warring nation sat together in peace with the enemy, travelled to the enemy capital to consult with its leaders, negotiated on their own behalf, investigated the war crimes of their own army, declared a separate peace, brought back prisoners of war, or discussed a common strategy?
Libretto on Strategy
We are americans, We mean action.
By our acts we are defined,
but every act creates a faction,
Thus by our acts we are confined.
Who demonstrate peaceably with babies in their arms
are peaceful demonstrators.
Who sit down and are dragged away
Who wish to elect the antiwar candidate McCarthy
are those who “clean up for Gene.”
Who fight in the streets are
(obviously) street fighters.
Who organize communities
are community organizers.
Who perform for the televised world,
antic, stoned, satiric,
Being is doing. See Sartre.
A festival of tactics!
Surely you are rich in style.
Rich in inspiration. Rich in ways to disagree.
Rich in squabble, ruckus, confrontation.
We too often disagree.
Alas (perhaps) we have no Yippies.
Our peaceful spurn our militants.
Our militants will not be seen
with those who would Clean Up for Gene.
Our electoral refuse to lie
down with our sit-inners.
Our Yippies are emotion freaks
who treat the serious like sinners.
Of Committees we know you have no Central.
And of Bodies no Coordinating.
Our Categories are not yours:
peasants, workers, women, bourgeoisie.
We cut our uniforms to fit our feelings:
redemptive suffering, appeal to reason,
conversion by example, public outrage,
self-defense, necessary force.
So. As your hippies say, you each do your own thing?
We each do our own Right Thing
which no one else is good as.
Though it took us several thousand years to learn,
We find there are times when
one demonstration of women and babies
is worth five guerrilla attacks,
one guerrilla attack worth five public statements,
one public statement worth five bombings,
one bombing worth five meetings in Paris,
one meeting in Paris worth five demonstrations of women and babies.
Depending on the moment and the correlation of forces.
Try telling that to!
[each yells the name
of someone else’s organization]
No wonder your country has invented
more religions than any other.
the error every revolutionary makes
— What did Jimmy do with this new-learned strategy ?
Gave the worst-received speech of his life on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley, days after returning from Paris.
“What did we learn?” he asks, his hand spearing the air. “There is no such thing as a revolutionary tactic. One group in the NLF doesn’t call another finks for holding a peaceful demonstration. They don’t yell ‘anarchists!’ at those who fight in the streets. They don’t get in a lather over who’s the most righteous. They don’t define their lives by the tactics they use. They see what they do as a longer-than-lifelong struggle to win.”
The crowd fragments. A discouraging word is heard.
“What do we do in the radical movement? We have a whole organization devoted to massive nonviolent demonstrations. We’ve got the flatbed truck and bullhorn set. We have groups that refuse to participate in anything insufficiently ‘revolutionary.’ And we have one organization devoted to burning small rectangular pieces of paper.”
The audience struggles with its faith in Jimmy.
“I thought all we had to do was find the revolutionary tactic, do it, and get away with it. I was wrong. It will take everything, peaceful demonstrations, electoral politics, sit-ins, general strikes, uprisings, fighting in the streets.”
People boo and wander off. Jimmy has never been booed in his life, not even by his enemies. He walks from the microphone devastated. What did I say wrong?
— What did he say wrong?
"He used the phrase longer-than-lifetime struggle," said the cobblestone. "The error every revolutionary makes is to believe his revolution will succeed within his lifetime. Jimmy’s listeners did not want to wait longer than their lifetimes."
— Stop. The cobblestone is in Paris. In your story Jimmy has gone home.
When did you learn that?
— A page ago.
Then it already happened and the cobblestone knows it. Ideas have no location, exist only in the present. The idea that Jimmy is in Paris sitting on a park bench wrought of iron lilies designed by Hector Guimard, for example, where and when is that idea?
— How do you know about lifetimes? Jimmy asked the cobblestone.
— I am old, laid down by seas that no longer exist. You humans are fireflies, I speak to one of you and poof! St. Augustine, Wat Tyler, Danton, Jefferson, Marx, Che, they all believed they would live to experience the Great Transformation. Time, which cons us all, conned them.
— The Great Transformation never arrives?
— It always arrives. William Morris — who was to Arts and Crafts as Guimard upon whom you sit was to art nouveau — said: "Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat and when it comes it turns out to be not what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant, under another name."
But if you try sometimes, you just might find ... on page 3 of the paper you're reading .....
Jimmy opened the Tribune.
on Presidio Base
Head Found on Pike
In National Cemetery
He flicked through the lead paragraph to make sure it was not some other Major with a name not Warden, which would be even more bizarre. No, it was Da-dee. What was the last thing the Major saw? His children looking down at him, the glint of a combat knife. Did Stew carry out his karmic mission with professionalism? The International Herald Tribune did not say.
Michelle guided Jimmy through the city. The Insurrection of May lay sunk beneath the stones. She brought him to rebel ateliers where silkscreen protest posters were cut, pressed, and dried like flowers, ready for the Fall semester. She showed him the rue Gay-Lussac where on May 10 cobblestone barricades rose by spontaneous generation. What doomed the greatest civil uprising since the Paris Commune? he asked. The absence of a strategy, said Michelle, fragmentation over tactics, fear and trembling by shopkeepers, the turning away by the supposed leaders of the working class — the Communists and labor unions — from the general strike of nine million they were meant to lead, into an election they were bound to lose. In short, a point of view.
Cobblestones passed on the news: something had broken out at the College of Medicine. They ran past small shops and linden trees. A block from the college, police lines appeared. A flic spotted them across the intersection. He looked ornamental to Jimmy, a figure from a tourist poster in pillbox hat and cape. The flic caught them with his eye, silently extended his right arm, pointed at them. They halted. Michelle rested her hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, laid her cheek on her hand in contemplation. The flic bent his arm in front of him, flattened his hand, slashed it across his throat, pointed again at them.
"Oui," whispered Michelle.
"A truly Gallic gesture," said Jimmy. They nodded to the policeman, eased backward down the block.
Michelle’s uncle Jules took them to dinner at the restaurant where Danton and Robespierre hung out; the waiter pointed to the historic corner table. Jimmy was in awe of les temps perdu. Michelle and her uncle still spoke, though Jules voted for DeGaulle in the election. They ate quail.
“Had you won,” asked Jules, “Would you have sent me to the guillotine for my point of view?”
Erebus and Terror
— Crimes against reality. What?
On a visit to St. Louis, Jimmy, still unsettled by his father, reads a book by the scientist-explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson he thinks is titled Unsolved Mysteries of the Arctic.
Stefánsson writes that in 1845, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty of the world’s most powerful nation gave Sir John Franklin command over the finest expeditionary force in his country’s history. They outfitted him with two military ships, the Erebus and Terror, bows clad in iron, officered by seasoned Arctic veterans and manned by “the elite of Maritime England.” It was the richest, most assured effort ever undertaken to discover a sea passage across northern Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, a venture of strategic importance attempted unsuccessfully for centuries.
The ships were steam-heated — a railroad locomotive engine stripped of its wheels embedded in each vessel for emergency power. They carried provisions and fuel for three years and luxuries unheard of in a military/scientific venture: 2,000 books (including Nicholas Nickleby), hand organs, portable mahogany writing desks, school supplies, scientific instruments, 136,000 pounds of flour, 4,000 gallons of liquor, 6,000 pounds of tobacco, everything needed to ward off cold, disease, scurvy, boredom, and isolation. Of weapons and ammunition they carried the latest and the best. No one doubted the success of this venture into the Empire’s bleakest, most primitive, inhospitable territory. It was the perfect expedition. It could not fail.
The two ships with their 130 officers and men sailed from the Thames for the Bering Straits on Monday morning, May 19, 1845. They never returned. Everyone died. Forty expeditions were sent to rescue them; each failed; it was a complete disaster. In the course of their searches, they found the Northwest Passage, which turned out to be no use at all.
What doomed the Franklin Expedition? “A point of view brought scurvy,” Stefánsson concludes, “The scurvy brought death.”
“They were moving ashore with superior weapons,” he writes, “but with minds inhibited by the outlook of their time and service.” Sir Franklin and his men engaged in a mortal struggle over the nature of reality and lost.
The Erebus and Terror froze in the ice. Sir John died on board. His second-in-command abandoned the ships and led the crew 150 miles south along the shore, a difficult but normal journey for the Inuit who lived and hunted there, a desperate, terrible journey for the English.
The things they carried did not kill them; their philosophical apprehension of the world murdered them, one by one. They humped Victorian England along barren coasts and frozen inlets. They carried watches (one corpse was found with five), silver forks and spoons, books. The first corpse discovered by later expeditions carried a clothes brush and a pocket comb. The crewmen dragged a 28-foot boat on a sledge, a weight of 1400 pounds, down the coast, and then, remarkably, part of the way back north toward the ship they had abandoned, until they died. They carried slippers and The Vicar of Wakefield, heavy iron cooking stoves, a copper lightning rod, pickaxes, shovels, iron hoops, and brass curtain rods. They humped silk handkerchiefs, towels, soap, and toothbrushes. They lugged “twine, nails, saws, files, bristles, wax-ends, sailmakers’ palms, dinner knives, needle and thread cases, two rolls of sheet lead, a truly astonishing accumulation of dead weight,” in the words of one who found them years later, frozen where they fell. They humped Sir John Franklin’s personal silverplate.
The British distrusted the Inuit, did not speak their language, approached them only to trade knives for seals the Inuit had killed, which they cooked by burning the blubber, which, if eaten, would have saved them. They shot partridge and other birds, for bird hunting was acceptably English, but not caribou, bears, or seals. They carried forty pounds of chocolate, died without eating it. Eventually they ate each other, a medical mistake: the flesh of men who die of scurvy contains few helpful nutrients. The English cannibals also died.
They relied on inaccurate maps that led them to believe they were not on an island but a peninsula connected to the mainland. They died of food poisoning and lead poisoning (the Admiralty purchased canned goods from the lowest bidder). They died of starvation and scurvy and opportunistic diseases and exhaustion. They froze to death, they killed one another, they lay down and died, hopeless. In the midst of an Inuit civilization, they died trying to reach the only true civilization, their own. The men of the Erebus and Terror “perished as victims of their manners, customs, social outlook and medical views,” killed by the “mental environment of their country, social class and time.” No one doubted their fortitude and courage. They were wrong, terribly wrong, in all their points of view.
When Jimmy finished reading, he saw the book was not by Stefánsson at all. It was The Tragic Fate of Sir William Westmoreland and Lord of the Admiralty Robert S. McNamara’s Lost Southeast Asian Expedition. Another imperial expeditionary force brought down by the idea that it was civilization. The Vietnamese inhabited Vietnam, the Americans did not. The Americans inhabited a map of Vietnam, a fatal category mistake and a crime against reality.
— When did Jimmy learn that? Are we in Paris? Is it still 1968?
There was a woman at the meeting, Pham Thanh Van. She wore an elegant white silk dress. One morning the translator stumbled over an American’s remark. She leaned to Jimmy. “Does he mean in America you call policemen pigs?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied. She was amused. Later she showed him a photo. In it she is dressed in the famous ‘black pajamas.’ Her hair is loose. She has a shovel in her hand. “Where are you?” he asked. “In the highlands, you wouldn’t know the name. We dug an outpost there. After we finished, the Americans built a Landing Zone above us. Over us, sort of. We invented the reversing Claymore Mines there.”
“The reversing Claymores?” But he knew. He knew. “What do you mean?” he said, trying not to cry. “They circled the zone with Claymores, which are directional.” “So I’ve heard,” said Jimmy. “One youth, from Hue, a math student, drew us a diagram, how we could turn them around and aim them at the center. He was very clever.” “How did you get past the wire?” Jimmy asked. “We, how do you say, pak up,” she jerked her thumb. “Popped up,” said Jimmy. “Like those animals in your Wild West.” “Prairie dogs,” said Jimmy.
“It was sad at the end,” said Madame Van. “An American youth who drove a Rome Plow…” She knows the technical term, thought Jimmy. Of course they do. “he plowed a peace sign on the base. He must have been a supporter of the Liberation Front.”
“No,” said Jimmy, “I think he was confused.”
“So you know him,” she said.
“I’ve heard of him,” said Jimmy.
“He must be famous then. We called him the Peace Plow Boy. After the Americans abandoned the base, we put up a small memorial to him. Part of his plow. If you meet his family tell them we’re sorry he was killed and he was a good boy.”
"Did you see a kid with him? Black, I mean napalmed, crusted?"
"I do not think so," she said. "The napalmed look very much the same."
“Were you underneath the Landing Zone?” asked Jimmy .
“No,” she said, “we were under a small group of trees they expected us to hide in.”
If Jimmy had read Stefánsson, he might have thought her an Inuit, watching Sir John Franklin’s men trudge by. She inhabited the world, the men at Firebase Mona did not. They were vectors wandering to their demise.
— This meeting with humans, how did it end?
— Was it subversive of the political order?
Whenever people embrace across borders the political order is subverted, abstract morality becomes personal, grand geopolitical concepts are transformed into people (and non-humans), borders become what they should be, thin colored lines drawn on paper.
On the final day, at a banquet of Vietnamese food and music, the Americans proposed to their friends a parting ceremony — the burning of U.S. draft cards. The Vietnamese were shocked, rose to stop them. “You’ll be arrested!” cried Madame Van, “Your government will throw you in prison.” We do this all the time, an American explained, the cards are duplicates and copies, the act is theater.
“No harm will come to you?” she asked.
— That’s it?
Keep the words of the great Kierkegaard in mind, Interlocutor: We understand life backward, but we must live it forward.
The waiter at the café near the Odéon, having served Jimmy twice, treated him as human. Michelle, delaying their final encounter, walked across the city. The cobblestone, who began the conversation badly by calling Jimmy “an imperialist pig who blunders about carrying your brain in the bucket of your skull believing everything outside your body to be The Outside World, when there is no outside world,” had calmed down.
— I suppose you worship higher things, it said.
— No gods.
— Progress, then?
— I'm a Marxist. Kind of.
— Ah, you believe in History, blowing you ever forward like a favorable trade wind.
— Toward a better world.
— This force, this Engine of History. Inevitable?
— More a tendency, a direction.
— Driven by a dialectical process which moves the relation of economic forces unevenly forward.
— I take it cobblestones are not Marxists.
— History is not a vector. It has no magnitude and no direction. Once you worshiped trees, then the gods in the trees, then the gods alone, then the One God who made the trees, now History. A great deterioration in the quality of religion. I believe history is an investigation.
Jimmy hoped Michelle, when she arrived, would tell him she adored him. He would fly home in the morning.
— Consider error, said the cobblestone. A plane goes down.
Jimmy kicked the stone.
— Not your plane, another one, Air France. The day is calm but cloudy, no cause is evident, but responsibility must be assigned. What is the first thing the Commission of Inquiry does? Consult a non-human, the black box, to divine the cause. Good word, no? The instant the jet hits the field, the flight recorder rises in stature in the collective of humans and non-humans.
— You anthropomorphize.
— The Box is without intent. Yet you depend on it for moral judgement, the balancing of grief and anger, lawsuits. The Box reports that the horizon-level stuck, the gauge that tells the pilot (Your own language betrays you, “tells”) his plane is on an even keel. It lied.
— No one punishes the gauge.
— Let us interrogate the horizon-level. What is in it?
— I don’t know. Levers, a bubble like a carpenter’s level. Something affected by gravitation.
— Pure entanglement. The mind of the aereonautical engineer, the draftsman, concepts of rods and balances invented by generations of clockmakers, delicate hinge-points, glass rolled to tolerances of a fraction of a millimeter, brass so thin it is almost two-dimensional. The congealed labor of industrial workers — as a Marxist, kind of, you should appreciate that. What went wrong? Name anything.
— A rod stuck.
— Therefore, we ask: did another instrument stick in the rolling mill, making the rod too thick, too thin? Did a worker, ordinarily conscientious, fail to read the micrometer accurately because the day before his wife fell ill and he was up all night? Was the micrometer wrong? Was the sheet of brass from which the rod was rolled weak at the molecular level at the place where years later it sticks? Or did it stick from desire of Air France to increase profits by cutting back on inspections? So many humans and non-humans entangled in the same device. But I ignore multitudes. The directors of Air France do not want profit for its own sake, they want things, the house in Antibes, the Mercedes, the Persian rug. They lust for things more than for women, for they attract women with things. The micrometer-handler’s wife fell ill from bacteria in the water system due to a sewage leak from a stuck valve uninspected by an alienated bureaucrat shopping that day for a car. The pilot chose, or did not choose, to believe the gauge over the slight unease in his body caused by his independent angular relation to the horizon, thinking his unease to be caused by the cognac he drank the night before in celebration of the salary increase awarded him by his bosses to quiet unrest among the middle-classes aroused by the events of May including the nights and days of fighting at barricades by students and workers armed with ... stones.
Jimmy saw, not barricades, but a bank account in the Castle Bank & Trust which consisted of a number and seethed with intent. He saw a file cabinet, a blackjack, a crack in the sky, a roomful of burned information, a potted tree in an intersection.
— This war you war against, in which millions suffer unspeakable agony and loss, is also a struggle over the nature of reality. Ask yourself. Did the Marines during the five-month seige at Khe Sanh ever have free will? Are the members of a long-range jungle patrol not blunt objects of the material world? Does anyone think incoming shells are inanimate? Which side of the war are the bamboo on? Ask them if non-humans (an M-16 for example) ever go on strike, saying, “See how you like knowing there’s nada behind the door.”
— Be honest. Did this dialogue between Jimmy and a pavé actually take place?
Of course not. The cobblestone was a fucking rock. But as Cosmo might say, “We live in a wilderness filled with non-humans with whom we have not yet learned to talk.”
— Wait! Before you go. What happened to Cathy and Jimmy?
They broke up, disagreed politically, wrote bitter letters. Father Flannigan reports she had two daughters, he had a son who died. After ten years they reconciled, remained apart and entangled, never stopped loving each other. By middle age it was clear they had made each other who they were today. Fadder F. claims theirs was a wholly successful relationship, just not the one either expected. He declined to comment on their deaths.