71. Poison Straight from the Bottle

You send a lawyer to argue before the Supreme Court. Some rise to the occasion. Some go to pieces, awed by the history, the solemnity, the authoritarian, hierarchical weirdness of the situation.

Jen rose. It was something to see. She knew in her bones that what she said was less important than how she said it. She looked like a voodoo princess, animating the words, swaying, gesturing, her hands sweeping through the dismal air, her fingers doing their own little dances, her eyes cutting through the sub-sub-basement dreariness.

When she met Leo, as she told it, he was powerful, rich, respected, feared. As if poor drooling Leo had ever in his life been some kind of khan, rather than the pampered product of inherited wealth. She herself, who was no willow in the wind, had trembled before him.

“You think she’s laying it on a little thick?” I whispered to Duke.

“Hell, no,” he said. “This is brilliant. These guys don’t want meta claptrap. They take their poison straight from the bottle.”

Leo, by Jen’s account, sired children by women who he wore out with his vigor. He led his loyal followers on campaigns to guild his massive white castle, the Institute of Arts. He filled it with riches that people traveled immense distances to ogle. The earth all but shook when Leo walked upon it.

I couldn’t tell what Abe made of this. He had a face made for a scowl. The yapping and humming of the interpreters and ancients went on non-stop.

Jen now wanted nothing more than to prevent Leo’s humiliation. That god, Leo, now tottered meaninglessly from bed to throne room, heavy on his cane, lost in his thoughts, barely able to express them, bringing sadness to friends and encouragement to his enemies.

Forget that Leo possessed neither at this point of his life.

Though it tore at her heart, though she could barely imagine a life without his majesty, Leo, still she knew it was greedy to wish that he would remain among the living. And to think that he would go on for another sixteen years, that he would remain to be so eroded, well, it was like watching the Himalayas turned to wretched molehills by the cruelty of time.

She could not bear it. Leo would not want it. This was another of those twists of history, of fate, of whatever you called it, that simply should not be allowed to stand.

By now Jen was in tears. She knelt in the dust. She pounded at it with her fists. She rent a few garments. At one point she went for her hair and seemed about to yank out a handful before she patted it back into place.

“Jesus,” said Brimsnod. “Off script. But the depth of the lie. You see this once in a lifetime and you’re blessed.”

Lincoln slowly approached Jen and pulled her to her feet.

“We have all of us experienced the harshness of circumstance, albeit to greater and lesser degrees,” Abe said. “For those who rise to the heights, the fall is more painful to all those who must observe.”

“You get past the idea that this is Lincoln and the guy wears you out,” Duke said. “A windbag. Never two words if he can get out twelve.”

“Sour grapes,” Brimsnod hissed.

“You go for this?”

“Compared to what? Provincial lawyers?”

“That’s how he got started.”

“Abe took it to a different level.”

“And look where we all are now.”

“You needed evidence the world isn’t fair?”

“Perhaps we could allow silence to descend once again from the province of our visitors,” Abe said, barely deigning to glance at us, “and bestow upon the ancients the respect and consideration to which they are entitled.”

Jen took a swipe at her dress, rearranging the filth.

“How’d I do?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“Baby, you nailed it,” said Duke.

“We got to wait for a decision,” Brimsnod said. “But there’s only one way this can go.”

Monday: He jumps off a bridge?