On the rock
“Sing for me, Ari” dad asks, as he looks at the white beast that he’s just caught.
What can I say. He is so sentimental in his old age. I need to remember to appreciate these moments. They won’t be there forever..
And after the last fight we had...well.. I need to make up for it.
But before I get a chance, to start singing.., he quizzes me, like when i was very young. “So, Ari. Tell me. We caught a whale. What do we need to do now?”
“Gut him? Clean all the yucky stuff ?” i intentionally use the word “yucky” to play along.
He nods in approval, but says “no no no”.
It was funny when i was 9. I’m sure it was.
“Scales. Clean the scales?” i offer.
“Do you see any scales? It’s a whale we got. Not a fishy”.
It’s just a game. I know the answer and he knows i know the answer. Is everything a mind fuck with parents, or is it just me?
I sing and he cleans the crap.
out of the flesh of the dead abimal, he twists out an old rusty harpoon. The remains of a rope still dangling on the cleat. He tests the point.
“Amatures” he mumbles and chucks it into the foam.
Then another harpoon, then another.
Some netting material, some rigging...
“Ha! Look at that!” He says, picking out something entangled in some ropes.
He cleans it a bit. Smiles triumphantly.
“So Ari. You’re keen on those bozos over land, so What is this, then?” He says. Hands me the thing.
Oh boy. I don’t have a clue. But he will push this on me, every chance he gets. This is some educational thing. Or a little chance at revenge.
He reminds me of what happened every chance he gets..
That jerk, Eric. I’m sooo over him.
But Dad will never let me forget...
That jerk , Eric.
That jerk, Eric.
“Gee, I don’t know, Da. I would guess this is a..... A torch!”
“Hemm....nice try Ari, babe, but no. Not even close”.
″ ok, OK... A special tool to hold paint while hanging from the rigging?”
“Ok...how about some bracing for one of their cannons?”
“Interesting idea, but still wrong..”
He is hungry to show off..
“Fine..i give up... What is it?”
“Oh...you kids give up too easily..”
“So tell me already...” I say “pleeease”.
″ fine. Look here. These straps go around something. There used to be a clasp, but i guess someone’s bitten it off..but if they bit it off...it means that....” He leads me...
“That there was something there to eat”.
“That’s right...I’ll give you a hint...it’s something you wanted very much once. The guy that had this wanted the same thing too...but he lost...”
“Yes!...ladies and gentlemen, i give you the amazing Ariel!!!” He says. “Legs. Well. You had them for a while, then you came back under the sea...well...This is...I’m not sure how it’s called, but it’s what happens when humans lose one of their legs. This cup thing fits over the part that’s ...oh...the stump...and they strap it. And they can walk with it...sort of... I should imagine not very well. And they also ...well they can’t swim much either..” He says. “Now...I haven’t seen a wooden leg like this, stuck on a whale before , but this one..this fish is special.. So...maybe the guy minus a leg tried a bit too hard to kill it... ” he says “Amatures...makes me laugh..” He
″ Can you imagine how ridiculous they looked..this guy and his whale...”.
but his chuckle is superficial. He overshot this by a mile.
I don’t know what to say. Whatever i do, it keeps bringing things up...He will never forgive me for betraying him, and he will hold my coming back, the way that i did.. on my knees...well he’ll hold it over me forever..
It’s not fair but...
I don’t miss Eric, anymore. But I can’t help but feel sad for this guy...
I wonder what he was doing?
Why would he just get entangled like this?
What was the point?
I remember going around collecting stuff from sunken ships..
Dad was NOT happy when he found out.. Destroyed the entire thing...
That’s when i really got into trouble..
I guess i also hold many things over him..
Such a tragedy...
Did he have friends?
Did he fight with his parents?
Did they try to stop him from chasing whales across the ocean?
I hope he didn’t suffer..
I imagine the poor guy being dragged uncontrollably behind the animal.
Makes me shudder when i think how afraid he must have been..
Probably drowned a long time before he was eaten, but you never know.
I suddenly feel a tightening. All this sadness, all this ... It’s overwhelming.
I cry for a moment.
I guess i still miss Eric after all...
Dad sees me crying. He knows that like so many times before, he went too far.
“Sorry Ari...” He says.. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. ....this was just...this was only meant...oh...look at me...I’m so ashamed...”
“No, dad. You warned me that this was going to happen, you were only...”
“Yes....only trying to protect you....but you... Eric...I hoped we could put it all in the past...go on a little ‘me and you’ time...and I can’t keep my big mouth shut...it’s not funny...nothing in this is funny. I’m so sorry”
We look at the waves for a while. Crashing on the rocks. Saying more in their rhythm than we could ever say..
“Hey...help me clean
this, and we can cook...” He says and gives me the trident.
We let all the muck float out, food for the seagulls and crabs for about a year.
And then we roast the thing over a nice volcano. Albino porpoises are something special.
Tastes like chicken...
I miss chicken.
I miss dairy products...
I cry a little again as we work. But i don’t let him see it.
Oh, how I miss Eric.....
We go back under the water, i feel a bit guilty that we didn’t bring anything for the others. But this was our thing.
The Plastic Indian
Playing in the shade, the dirt and gravel,
I remember looking for stuff. There were not much there, mostly just rocks.
But a young boy with a keen eye could find all kinds of stuff; a side mirror, from a scooter, an ancient bottle cap for a soda I’ve never heard of, a fossil of what must have been the smallest dinosaur in the world, fins and all.
There were dangers of course.
By the rising boulders, there grew what looked like sweetpeas , but was actually something very dangerous. my grandpa told me later, that it could have killed me, if I put just one more pea in my mouth...
Still I kept hunting for treasure.
Then, on a hot summer day, I narrowed my search to just under the pecan tree.
This is where I found it. A plastic Indian warrior.
I had a few toy soldiers, standing or kneeling with their rifles , on their square bases. But this was new stuff. Cowboys and Indians were not very popular in my time. But that Brave Apache, or Cherokee, or Lakota, was impressive: half-standing, half-kneeling. His spear, decorated with feathers was held raised above his head, poised for a thrust. with the other hand, he held a rounded shield.
A treasure! A work of art! A defiant warrior, standing his ground, fiearce beyond belief. Fearless.
I was interrupted with admiring my prize, when I heard someone asking me something.
It was a man sitting at the driver’s side of a car. The door to the other, opposite seat, the one facing me, was open.
“I said, do you like my Indian friend?” the guy asked.
Rule no. 1: never talk to strangers.
Rule no. 2: be polite to other people.
Not answering will be impolite.
Can I avoid talking, and yet answering with a nod, perhaps?
What if he thought I was rude?
What if he was some uncle or family friend I just didn’t recignize. It always happens in family meetings, especially everybody coming to see the new baby.
Besides, the driver phrased the question as implying ownership of the warior (my indian friend- Not your Indian friend!).
If this is his, he might want it back.
How could I handle loosing something so precious, when I just found it?
“You’re shy” the man says “but I can see you like the Indian very much. It’s yours. I’m giving it to you. ”
As he was talking, he took out a cellophane bag, and started to gently place more indians on the empty seat between us.
“Come closer. See my collection. I might give you one or two” he said, not even looking at me. Busy placing more and more plastic warriors on the upholstery.
What to do?
I decided that it can’t hurt to take closer
I took a step forward, focusing on the bounty that was being arrayed for my inspection: Fighting indians with spears and bows, cowboys with gallon hats and pistol belts and lassos. A Cavalry officer riding a horse with a bugle horn, calling all around him to charge.
I took another step closer.
The guy took the cavalry officer and held it out, gesturing me to take it.
I took another step.
I was almost able to reach it, when the guy moved back a bit, still holding the figure, but now sitting straight on the left hand side.
“Come on and take it” he said.
I took yet another step.
Coming almost inside.
It was then that my mom came running at us. Murder in her eyes.
The guy, seeing that he was going to catch more than he wanted, quickly flipped the ignition and drove off in a flash. He didn’t even bother closing the other door, but I remember it slamming shut as he made the sharp turn out of the parking spot.
I was left without any more indians, just dust kicked up by the car, and my mom.
She was livid.
“What did I tell you about playing here by yourself?!” “What did we say about talking to strangers?!” “You’re a grown boy. Can’t I trust you to stay put while I take care of your brother?”
And so on and so forth.
I knew I was in trouble.
But I would not show her the Indian I got.
She would take it away. For sure.
She would throw it to the trash, where it would sit on top and taunt me to pick it up, just like the dinosaur I found before..
I listened as she raged, as she adnonished.
But I did not open my hand, and placed the Indian in the back pocket of my shorts.
As we walked home, I remember a sharp sensation in my buttocks, wandering if it was the spear doing that.
The police came , asking me questions in the super condescending way that they take with kids.
Asking me questions about the car. About the chickenhawk.
But what could I say?
I didn’t remember if it was a Chevy or a ford. It might even have been a beetle.
I didn’t even remember the color.
All I could remember was how fast it drove out when the jig was up, and how much dust it made.
As for the man, I remembered even less. My eyes were much too occupied with the toys.
Perhaps if I was allowed to actually talk to him, I would have needed to look him in the eyes. All I remember is his hand holding the cavalry officer by his hat and bend his Hand back, so that it was as if it was another finger, curling back , inviting me in.
They did not ask anything substantial about the indians and the cowboys,
But grownups, seem to have a very strange way to look at things. I already knew that.
I kept the Indian hidden for a long time, it was kept quarantined from the khaki and green soldiers in their shoebox.
Segregated for his own good I decided. He was bigger then them and the base he was standing on, was elliptical, and not a square or rectangular shape as they were. Besides he was a completely dufferent story. They wouldn’t have gotten along, I knew...
Just kill me already
I tried to argue as he wrote me the ticket.
I told the police officer that it wasn’t my fault. I was just driving drunk.
They always pick on me.
But he wouldnt buy it.
“You old farts are always ‘I just slipped off the rail’ or ‘not my fault there was too many pills in the bottle’. But i seen it all before”. He says, closing the sitation book.
He hands me the slip.
“Pay the fine, and don’t mess about. You know the rules. Next time I see you with a broken spine or a ruptured lung I’m taking you in, Buddy ” .
And he drove off.
I wobbled home. The medication will kick in soon. I’ll be just another old fart again, and not a dead old fart.
When I walk by the Johnson’s, I see Henry jogging.
Who is he kidding?! I saw him with his head up the stove the day before.
I want to know what fine did he get?!
Or maybe he’s trying to pull off a massive embolism or something?!...
Might as well do a Benjamin Franklin and try to fly a kite with all the good it will do ya...
Well, better go to the post office and pay the fine. Maybe I’ll get lucky...
The happy guy
A: i think I’m depressed.
B: oh. Sorry to hear that. Depressed about what?
A: what’s not to be depressed about.
B: well..give me a clue.
A: my nose is big.
B: so what? My nose is big too.
A: just an example.
B: an example of what?
A: my being depressed..(sighs)
B: oh yeah...well what else?
A: i think don’t have a large penis.
B: look...I’m not going to check.. but Lydia talked to me yesterday, she is always nasty. Your name never came up. I promise..
A:doesn’t prove anything.
B:sure it does. If there was something bad to say, she would say it. And...
A: how would she know?
B:you guys were together for a while.
A:never did anything. Were.
A:were together. Past tense. We WERE together.
B:want to tell me more?
A:I may be gay.
B:why do you think that...i mean, it’s perfectly ok if you are.
A:not in my position.
B: why do you think your gay, anyway?
A:i had this dream.
B:so... Dream about a guy? It’s normal. Everyone gets ambivalent sometimes.
A:I’m gay, i have a big nose and a small Johnson. I’m so depressed.
B:you really are getting strange. You can pick out anything to be depressed about. From all the things, this is what you chose? Not even bad things.
A:so things like what?
B:no. Not going to help you wallow. Let’s get a drink. Or is that too depressing for you too?
A: it is, actually. I don’t think i should.
A:no. I just feel everyone laughing at me down at the pub. Even Ernie.
B:Ernie laughs at everybody.
A: not at you he don’t.
B:he feels ashamed . you know...
B:oh...you know...you know..
A:no i don’t.. what happened? Show me on the doll wherebthe mean guybtouched you..
B: fine...remember my dog?, Schwarzenegger?
A: yeah...poor guy...
B:Ernie did that.
B:yeah...with his fucking Mazda.
A: i thought he had a VW?
A:geez...sorry. I didn't know. Fine..let's go get a drink. I just brought up that thing.
B: no. No...it's ok. You're depressed, happens to everybody.
A:you know what? I was really wrong about all these things. So what if i have.. If I'm... You know...
B:exactly. It's not the thing that makes you depressed it's the depression that gives you the things To Be depressed about.
A:and what if I'm really gay?
B:it's ok. You'll be ok. Just don't be such a let down and someone may actually like you.
A:what do you mean 'let down'?
B:did i say let down? I meant something else...eh..
A:no. You said let down. I disappointed you somehow.
B:i didn't mean anything even remotely like that.
A: yeah you did. I'm a let down for you.
B: ough. Listen you're just running around in circles, trying to justify why you're feeling depressed.
A:no I'm not. I'm running in circles trying to find out what did i do, that dissapoints you so much..
B:you didn't and don't catch me at my words like that.. Becau..
A:because they show me who you really are?
A: you know what i mean! Everytime you hit a moment where your rational clashes with how you really feel you get these slips.
B: no I don't.
A: oh. You just protested that I'm catching you at your words. Catching you with you're pants down. Stop hiding, and tell me.
B:really?! Is that what you want? Is that what you really want?!..Mr 'boohoo...I'm depressed... Boohoo ...i think I'm gay..' Actually, i did have a Freudian slip. You're not a let down. You're just a drag, Buddy. Get your shit together. If you can't do it personally, then you can come to me. But it's 2 o'c-fucking-lock in the morning. I just have another three more hours to go before i need to get up. You whine, and you don't even have the decency to go have a drink?!
Shave!, get a job!, get out there.. Boy or girl is both fine...just do stuff. Don't ...drape your self over the sofa and eat yourself up, like you do.
A:geez, i didn't know I'm pissing you off so much. I was feeling terrible, and i was thinking i could talk to someone... You know...instead of eating some pills. But excuuuuuuse me for living...(starts to walk away)
B:hang on, hang on...look. Come in. Let's get that drink...talk about stuff.
A:don't do me any favors.
B: no. I'll even order pizza if you want. We'll sit and talk...
A:i think you're so full of it..
B:no. Just suddenly hungry. Come in. It's cold.
A: hungry for pizza? Now? Two AM?
B:greasier the better. Meat lover's...
A:oh..fine...Actually ...it does sound good suddenly in a sleazy kind of way..but I'm paying for the pizza.
B:of course you are. Just don't ...yeah..here you go again..are you ok? you always hit your nose on the doorframe..
A slice of innocence
You know, if you smell that, you’ll get sick.
“What? But I like to smell fresh asphalt”
What are you talking about? It is a terrible smell, and you’ll get very sick some day if you keep it up.
A week later, talking to a friend:
“I’m telling you, if you smell the fresh asphalt , you’ll get AIDS”
Went to a dairy farm, saw the cows giving milk. Then the river of cowshit, flowing towards a processing installation. Weeds and oxpeckers nesting by the “river”.
″ now kids, this looks very solid ground” the guide says, taking a break from the ecological presentation. He throws a rock at the deceptively safe ground. It sinks right in. He then tells us to throw our own, have some fun. Then he scares us about “the horrible bog. You step in and sink. No one will ever find you.
I couldn’t sleep for two days, the jerk.
That year, ” the never-ending story” came out. Atreyu is leading his horse through the swamp of sadness, seeking Morla. I screamed and got out of the theater long before he ever found the turtle.
Got intetested in cooking: frying eggs is easy. Just melt some butter and dump an egg inside.
Peanut butter is called butter. it must thetefore be applicable as butter, and I love peanut butter. How great would that be? Omelette that tastes like peanut butter?!?!
The smell of burned peanut butter got my parents running. I still hear about it in family meetings.
Well. just been thirty years...
Pertinax, after a long and arduous day of listening to reports, signing warrants and decrees, and all the usual business of running his empire, sat now, exhausted on the couch.
His mind was uneasy. But that was nothing new in itself; he had received the title of Caesar just three months before, handed to him by Timerius, the head of the Praetorian Guard, after Commodus was strangled.
Timerius did not in the least seemed affected, by the death of the man, who had raised him from the pit of the collosseum, to govern the corps of palace guards. He did not regret the part he played in the scheme, it was just business. His reasoning was that Commodus was invoking hatred to himself, which was only on par with the bankruptcy of the coffers.
The guards , and Timerius saw it simply- they needed to eat too, and with an end to revenue in sight, and with the masses already clamoring to see his bloody reign over (preferably bloodily as well) they needed to find a new king. No pay, no love, equals no life.
And now Pertinax, who took on the appointment foolishly, thinking there will be a treasure to be had, needed to pay wages to fifteen thousand guards!
He feverishly searched through reports of confiscations, of assets. Here writing a remark, there stamping the seal . scratching his temples in concern.
Simbla entered the room. Her slender body sashaying along, as she brought him his supper. The Nubian had an appealing ass, which Pertinax enjoyed caressing and she obliged him, standing so, her tray already placed by the table and his arm reaching behind her.
He stopped for a moment. Her muscles tense as the master stroked her behind. apprehensive, as all slaves felt, of what they sometimes needed to perform.
Why does she tremble? Can't she see that I just want a moment's relief? Should a rose shrivel when we stop to smell it? He wondered. But there was not going to be any sex. He was too worried. He retracted his hand from under her tunic, and took the brass bowl from the stand. It was Mushroom and turtle soup. The heat of the bowl was radiating. with the cold of the night, he felt relaxed by the rising steam.
Better get it over with.
"Simbla!" he said. Regretting the forceful tone immediately.
"Yes, your highness?"
"Fetch me Felinious"
"At this time? He should be eating with the rest of the palace magistrates"
"And I'm sure its a fine meal. But I need to talk to him. Please send for him at once." he said, trying not to be too cynical. Simbla did not get cynicism at all.
"Right away" she said and disappeared. He could hear her sandals, clop-clopping on the marble floor, slowly softening with distance.
He ate of the soup. He enjoyed the creamy texture, and the fattiness of the turtle meat. But unlike the turtle, he was getting thin.
He had terrible indigestion and the doctor had earned his pay to be sure.
Unlike Simbla, Felinious, the palace magistrate, the house master, did not make a sound as he approached the hall, where Pertinax rested. Did he take his sandals off? walking in silence? Was that a habit necessary for survival in an emperor's palace? Pertinax mused to himself.
The man appeared before him, a stain of grease on his tunic indicated he was indulging himself once more. They eat better than me, thought Pertinax. Without a doubt.
"Yes your highness, what may I do for you?" said the servant.
"What we talked about, the other day. I think there is no choice anymore."
"What may that be?" Felinious said, evasively.
"You know perfectly well. We need to sell half of the palace staff"
"Dont contradict me now!" he interrupted, irritated, should he remind him who was king and who was slave? "I'm the emperor and I can make sure you'll be a puddle of blood on the floor of the circus by the afternoon" he said. a lie. at best it would take a week.
"I wasnt contradicting you. I just need you to understand what the repercussions of this will be."
"Pray tell, what will be the re-per-cussions" he said articulating the word, mocking his servant's Gaelic accent.
"Well, we sold a hundred of the palace staff last month. A half of what's left, that's another two hundred. "
"Yes?" Pertinax said, inviting him to continue, knowing full well what the argument was going to be.
"Well, you majesty. The household was run with eight hundred before we economized"
"You mean before I took office?"
"And we were overworked as it was with that many."
"A lot of orgies to clean after, I believe."
"Do you see me party, as Commodus did? Do I invite the toadies and silk-robed tulips that make up 'respectable society' now days?"
"No, your highness, and if you feel the need for entertainment, I can just..."
"Stick to the point!"
"Very well. Even without the orgies, even without the parties. We still need to clean this place daily" Felinious said, counting the chores with his fingers demonstratively. "We still need to prepare meals for the imperial family, not to mention the household, and the guards. We also have the stables, the latrines, the baths.."
"Oh shut up! If we sell half of the slaves, there would be that much less to clean and feed. And dont think I dont know how you feed them. we're going to have a talk about how you indulge that and think about cutting the meals to something more affordable, but not today. Today we're just getting rid of some slaves."
"Your highness. I must protest!"
"Protest all you like." He concluded, waving a hand in dismissal. "I want to see a list drawn out before I go to bed."
"But your highness!" protested the servant.
"Look here Felinious! I'm getting angry, and when I get angry I lose my appetite. If I lose that, I'll go to sleep hungry. Would you want to be the reason why the emperor of the civilized world goes to bed hungry? Like a punished child?"
"No, your highness."
"Than I suggest you go back, finish your meal, and after that, get to work."
"May I just say-?"
"No you may not!" Pertinax said, and turned to the soup, sipping it directly from the bowl, a golden spoon in hand. This, by the way, was the last of the golden cutlery, possessed by the emperors since the time of Augustus. He had kept that last one only because it was said to have changed in color if touched by poison.
Outside the hall, he heard Mexilus, a Palace guard, cough. He must have heard the discussion with Felinious. Pertinax now wondered how long will it take for Timerius to get a full report.
"You may go" Pertinax dismissed Felinious now. The man turned, and walked away, making no sound.
With a sigh and still holding the bowl with one hand, sipping of the hot liquid, Pertinax resumed his attention to the accounts.
How could he have been so stupid?! Timerius offered him the position, and he just took it!
Of course, He could comfort himself. Say that he didnt know the state the empire had reached. How it was all spent away on gladiators and lions rather then aqueducts and roads.
He could try to console himself with the fact that Commodus's excesses, and the fact that he was at the point of bankruptcy, that all of that was a state secret. He could tell Himself that, but it would not be the entire truth.
In fact, It was well known that Commodus, like many before him, when confronted with a problem of solvency, had the habit of accusing some rich family of plotting treason and taking all their possessions-right after sending them to the lions.
And Commodus? A single day hadnt passed, where somebody wasnt screaming for mercy in the arena. No. Pertinax knew, that this was how he paid for all these games and orgies.
So things needed to be sold off. There wasnt anything else to do.
Simbla walked back, carrying a silver tray, shined and polished, with dried fruit on it. Pertinax looked at the tray, at Simbla and wondered, if he could bear to part with the girl, as if he sold her like one of these expensive but useless baubles, amassed through the centuries.
Must I sell everything?! Look at those breasts! Surly I, the mighty Caesar, has the right to keep her? He said and became self conscious. Perhaps, after all I will have her tonight. Enjoy it while it lasts.
He drank of the wine. This, by the way was still from Commodus's stock.
The man had a well-deserved reputation for the love of the grape. At least that he had not squandered away. Pertinax remembered now, When the praetorians had escorted him, for the first time to the palace. It was a large company of armored men, with Timerius at the head, shouting all the time: "All hail our new Caesar! All hail Pertinax! Long may he reign!" and just as they entered the hall, Timerius commanded, that drink will be set up for his men. And they all drank deeply. Of the best stock too!
Pearls before swine, pearls before swine. He sighed and rubbed his forehead.
But at least I dont have to buy new wine. No! I have enough here to keep us all satisfied for a few years at least. It was as if Commodus had been secretly preparing for a siege, but without sense, he had stocked up only on wine.
An amusing stand that would make! He thought.
Pertinax hadnt stopped his work even after dinner. Working by candle light he had made a list of items, all of which must be sold, he was not a merchant and until this day did little in the way of selling; could he sell his farmlands here, or could he sell his trade ships there?
But these were his possessions! these were the few estates that were left unsold from Commodus's reign, and there were not many left. Many, Pertinax tried to return to their rightful owners, if they survived. These unfortunate families, who had been crushed, were cleared and reinstated when he took office. He tried to be fair. He could not give back what was already out of his hands, but those few estates that, at the time of his ascension, were recent confiscations, yet unsold, he brought back to those members of the families that didn't perish under Commodus's wrath.
but there were few estates that belonged to him personally, and another small group belonged to commodus, and could not be returned to anyone with a easonable claim.
Now seemed to be the time, when he would need to sell his own lands.
There were other items that would need to be carted away. Cutting deep into the flesh...
Felinious arrived at last, walking silently, as he leaned over his shoulder, trying to read. Pertinax jumped, startled, for a second he was sure that he was going to be stabbed in the back.
"Do not sneak behind me! How dare you startle your emperor?!" He shouted irritated. His mood had worsened since dinner. More bad news.
Simbla was standing behind, afraid of her master's anger. Seeing her afraid so, warm compassion overpowered him and he decided that he will not have her tonight after all.
"Your highness, please pardon me! Its the servant's list. But I strongly su-"
"Be quiet! I will keep my own counsel. I know what you want to suggest. But I've made up my mind! "
"Your highness. Surely there are other things we can do! You can sell them now, but getting good slaves later will not be easy. You can say much about our previous master, but when it came to slaves, he was very careful."
"What are you talking about?! He was strangled in bed!"
"An assassin! Not one of the staff had a hand in that." Felinious quickly said.
"Doors dont open themselves." replied pertinax drily.
"You will be quite now."
"As you wish, your highness."
And now Pertinax took the list, it was the entire roster of the staff slaves, divided to departments and sections of the household.
In total there were 438 slaves left.
"Look here" He said pointing to an item on the parchment.
"Yes, your highness?" Felinious said, apprehensive.
"The stables. It says we have 27 slaves working there."
"Yes your highness. Doing the best they can after you reduced their numbers by ten slaves."
"I want them all gone."
"All of them?!"
"All of them."
"But who will tend to your horses?"
"It's funny that you mention that, because I will sell my horses too."
"Your highness! You intend to sell all of your stable?"
"But your highness! An emperor needs his horses."
"I'm not good at riding; my children are too lazy to ride. What good are they to me?"
"Your highness. There are times when an emperor needs a horse."
"Well, if you need to ..eh.. Leave the city."
"Do you mean flee the city?"
"Well...yes your highness"
"The praetorians dont let me leave the palace, much less leave Rome. I dont need horses. there isn't going to be a triumph anytime soon either.. And if I ever find myself in need of a horse, I'll burrow one from Timerius."
"But your highness ..We also keep the mules in the stable. How are we to bring food to the palace without the mules?!" He said, raising his voice.
"Ok. You have a point. Get rid of the horses, and leave one slave to take care of the mules, there are only ten of them, I believe. Make it the best of the lot. I think Emphistocles is our best, I saw him the other day help deliver a foal. Little Demetrius was very excited by that."
"But.. your highness. It will be unseemly that the emperor has no horses.!"
"It will be even more 'unseemly' if the emperor had no money to pay the praetorians!! Now. Let's go over the rest of the list." He commanded.
And they did.
After the stables came the housekeeping staff, after that came the entertainment, after that came gardening, the fire watch, the menagerie, the baths, maintenance, the market crew, runners, basement stores. ..
"..And finally the kitchen" proclaimed Pertinax, by this time he was getting tired.
"Very well, your highness, should I assume that we will not be having cooked meals anymore?"
"Dont joke with me." Pertinax said "I'm not in the mood" running the bridge of his nose.
He took up the abacus again and began to calculate.
"We currently have 438 slaves, and another 46 free men, and another 20-my family and guests. That makes it 504. Good! Now, so far I've decided on..178 slaves to be sold. The kitchen now has fewer mouths to feed, doesn't it? From the 109 who work in the kitchen, how many can I let go?"
"I'm not sure, your majesty. Most of the food prepared. And most of the work, is for your family and the guests"
"I'm sure that's not true. But I will need to keep the strength up. You just can't tell when you have to throw a feast. The holidays alone are so crazy. "
"And then you also have the food tasters. Your highness"
"Yes. We mustn't forget them. So I should think of getting rid of.. a quarter of the group. Get rid of thirty."
"Yes your highness." Felinious said. He was tired too. And the struggle was lost.
"So how many do we have for auction? "
"Your highness. There are 208 of our staff to be sold"
"Good! Finally some progress! I will have a list of all these slaves tomorrow, and do come again after breakfast; I want to go over other items I want to auction."
"Very well, your highness. Is there something else I may be of service?"
"No. you may go. Have a good night"
"I wish you the same, your highness" he said quietly, remote. Already thinking of who he needed to send away.
He collected the papers, scrolling them together. These will need some more work. Felinious could see a long night ahead.
With a sigh, that he was unable to restrain, he turned and went, walking silently.
Simbla took the tray of dried fruit that was left on the table for a snack and the wine goblet. It was still half-filled with wine and honey, the emperor's favorite.
This was the time to be on her guard. Pertinax seemed drowsy, but a false move on her side, a sexually appealing position of her body, and his desires would rise. He had taken her many times before; grunting, sweating, his efforts more often then not coming to nothing. It was more pathetic and uncomfortable than anything else.
So she moved carefully. Self-aware, careful not to bend, or to reveal.
The man was slouching over the table, reading yet another dispatch from the Germanic woods.
"Will there be anything else, your highness, that I may do for you?" she asked finally, bracing herself for an affirmative answer.
"No. thank you Simbla. Have a good night yourself. Please tell Celbon to prepare just one egg for me for breakfast." He asked softly "and no honey in the porridge. It upsets my stomach."
"I will tell him. Have a good night, your highness."
Relief! She hurriedly went out, in case he will change his mind.
She made her way to the kitchen. It wasnt far away.
In the kitchen, sitting by one of the cutting tables, clean now after a day's work, was Celbon, the old cook. He was drinking a steaming cup of milk.
"Your stomach's been acting up again?" Simbla asked.
"Yes. I have an advice to give you, my child and that is to never to get old. "
"Yes... Thanks" Simbla smiled, slightly. The room was poorly lit.
"How is our imperial majesty doing?" he asked, with much contempt.
"He wants to sell half of us off." She said, and placed the silver tray on the table. There were still a few dried apricots on it, and she took one of them joyfully.
"Yes. I know. Felinious got the word around. "
"He really put up a fight. You should have seen him. Pertinax almost sent him to the lions a few times."
"He wouldnt have. If there is someone here in this palace that will die peacefully in his bed, maybe even of old age, is that man. The rest of us are fair game."
"He served as palace magistrate for over twenty years. Pertinax is his fourth king. And everybody knows how valuable he is."
"And under how many kings have you served?"
"Me? I'm old but I was brought in under Commodus. He got me after he took me from my old masters. Killed them all, by the way. Even the babies. "
"Yes. But unlike many families, my old master, Gosius, actually did plot against him, against Commodus I mean."
"You think that Pertinax is better than him?"
"Hard to say. He's still only three months in office. Usually they get crazy after some time. So I can't be sure. But maybe... Maybe."
"But he still wants to sell us all"
"Not all of us. Just some. "
"What will happen to those he sells?"
"You know very well, I should think. Weren't you bought off once?"
"no. I was born like this. "
"I see. Well. If they're lucky- a good family will buy them. "
"And if not?"
"Are you afraid?"
"Sorry. Better not to think about bad things. But in your case I should think that you're safe." And the old man gulped down the last of the milk. He reached and took a dried plum from the tray. "I really shouldnt, but I can never resist."
They talked for a while longer. Slowly finishing the rest of the dried fruit, even finishing the wine that Pertinax didnt drink.
After that, Simbla took the tray and the goblet, to the washing basin. Took a handful of fine sand and careful not to scratch the engraving, slowly scrubbed the tray, with a bit of water.
After finishing, She said goodnight to the old man, and walked off to see Harigiton, her lover.
She found him sitting with Vencurious, another of the stable crew, playing with dice. A single oil lamp lighting the small room. Vencurious, seeing Simbla, and guessing her purpose made his excuses and left, leaving the couple by themselves.
"..And he wants to get rid of all of the stable crew."
"Yes. I dont know what to do."
"Let's run away"
"There isnt a place in the world where we would be safe. No. I think that escaping is out of the question."
"But he will sell you . That's what he wants to do. "
"Yes. You said this already."
"So what can we do?"
"I still don't know. I wish I had an answer" he said, hugging her.
His hands were coarse. Used to the rough trade of shoveling the horse's manure. of lashing and pulling. And as he caressed her, Simbla could feel the callous of his hand. Of boils that broke and cuts, of burns and bruises. She was familiar with his hands and could feel any change in the rough texture.
What a contrast it was to Pertinax' smooth and oily hands, as they slithered their way under her dress. Perhaps there was power in that. She thought.
"Maybe I can talk to him? Ask him to spare you?"
"I'm pretty sure it will make things worse, not better. When He..Has you.. he might feel jealous. No. I'm sure that you have a safe place here. But as for me- I'm sure that whatever you tell him, will get me a respectable position in the collosseum. no. don't tell him anything. I think that it's better to let things run their course."
"But we will be separated!"
"We may be." He said, trying to calm her. "You know how much I love you. But you need to prepare yourself. Maybe by the end of this week, we will be in two different houses, serving different masters. "
"How. How can you take these things so easily" she said, crying now.
"Listen. I have been a slave most of my life. You were a slave all of your life. You learn. What we have is not forever. But you know- it never is. Even free people, even the emperor loses in the end. And what is the difference between losing you to a pleague, the way I lost my family, to losing you by separation. "
"But how can you be so cool about it?!" she cried "you dont really love me. You never did!"
"That's not true! Being with you has been the best time I had in my life, I never felt like this before." He said. A tear forming and streaming down his cheek. "But like many things, it's beyond my powers. And I know that whatever I do, I will make things harder for you...."
They spent the night together, until they were woken by Mecilanius, a member of the fire watch. It was his duty to awaken the servants, to a new day of labor.
..And of course Mexilus heard everything. He heard Felinious and Pertinax argue, he heard of the plan to sell the slaves. This was important.
He followed Felinious with his eyes, as he exited the royal suite, making his way down the darkened corridor. The man hugged the rolls of documents, in one hand, and in the other, supported his back. The balding palace magistrate was in his leisure tunic. Walking away, with a slight limp. Clearly miserable.
And then, Mexilus was left to himself. A few minutes later, Simbla came out as well, holding the service tray, She offered a few of the dried fruit to him. He hesitated, or at least pretended to hesitate, but than reached, grasped a few figs and hid them under his helmet. These will do nicely until he will be relieved in the morning. But he mustn't eat them now. While people of importance were still awake, he could not risk being discovered eating while on duty.
He nodded in appreciation to Simbla, hoping that she will not be sold. She was always kind to him, giving him leftovers, and making sure that the oil in his lamp was full, so that he would not need to search in the darkness for fuel.
She was so beautiful! But of course, that was the reason that Pertinax kept her. Mexilus had heard quite a few times, of the leader of the world, grunting and panting, enjoying her youthful body.. But he mustn't think about it!!
He watched her disappearing down the same corridor as Felinious and he was alone. And this time for good; unless there was some emergency, or the emperor will get up to relieve himself, there was very little hope of seeing another living soul until the morning.
Inside the bedchamber, he could hear the emperor hum something to himself, perhaps slightly drunk, or just distracted. There were footsteps now, as the emperor got up. Mexilus heard him move about a bit. By now, Mexilus knew that Pertinax had a habit of doing some light exercise before sleep. And then the noise stopped, and he could hear the slight creaking of the bed, as it braced his weight. The light from the other room was gone. The king went to sleep.
During the night. Standing at his watch, Mexilus rehearsed how he will, after being relieved, would march right into Timerius's office; he was posted to guard the bedchamber, to protect the emperor's life, but mostly, to serve as a spy. And in the past, for a useful bit of intelligence, Timerius had paid him generously.
Once, after he told him of a brief affair between Pertinax and his sister in-law, Clovelia, Timerius was so pleased, that beside the money, he offered the soldier a cup of wine. They drank together, and Timerius, beaming slapped him friendly-like on the shoulder.
Mexilus now strained himself, trying to commit to memory every bit of the conversation between Pertinax and the aged servant. He was sure he had heard most of it.
In short. Pertinax had reached a dire situation, where there was nothing left in the treasury and that Pertinax's own resources were running out. He was now intending to sell, in one go, many of his slaves, and much of his private estates and assets.
Time passed slowly. He tried to remember the names of specific slaves mentioned, just in case they were of some importance to his commander. Outside he could hear a few frogs crooning for their heart's desire in the palatial gardens.
After some more time passed, He removed his helmet carefully and inspected the treasure that Simbla had given him. Eight dried figs!! The time was probably two in the morning. He reckoned.
That meant that he had six more hours to go, until his relief at eight. Eight figs for six hours. He should actually finish them well before that; the palace started to come to life at five, When the man of the fire watch would go , room by room, and awaken all that needed to be woken. If he, or anybody else caught him eating...well...it would be something to hold over him.
Timerius wasnt that obsessed with discipline, but he was known to have a soldier flogged and even scourged, for disciplinary infractions. And being caught eating by the imperial bedchamber. Well, that's severe. It would make him, Timerius look bad.. better not think of what could happen..
...so in actuality , instead of having six hours to finish eight dried figs, he had about three... and with that thought, he took one of the figs, and with the rest safely put aside, he replaced his helmet. He popped the fig into his mouth and chewed quickly.
Timerius accepted the report coldly. The news were indeed of great importance. But they were bad news and nobody likes to hear bad news. So, confronted with somewhat of a dilemma, he attacked Mexilus's appearance; the guard was not shaven, with stubble darkening his pinkish cheeks. He also looked a bit dirty, spattered with mud, as Mexilus made his way to the praetorian camp to make his report.
A praetorian was a symbol of authority!! it will not do to make it shown that there was a lapse in discipline.
But Timerius was not ungenerous. He weighed the infraction of his disheveled looks with the importance of the news, and let him off with only a severe warning.
After that he gathered his personal escort, only 30 guards and their commander, and made his way, to the imperial palace.
The march was brisk. Timerius enjoyed it, as the rain, an early spring rain, had left the air clean, with anticipation for the heat to follow.
Following The rhythm of the march, matching that of his heart, he felt an empowering surge of confidence. Things were not good. There were reports of Goths in the north, a famine in Syria and of course the very possibility that Pertinax would not be able to furnish him with enough money for his men. But with those powerful thuds, of the soldier's feet, hitting the ground in unison, and the fresh air... You can't help but feel better in that situation.
"Your highness, prefect Timerius Leptis, of the praetorian guards, is here to see you." Felinious announced, standing at the door to the imperial suite. As was proper. But Pertinax had heard them marching and the young centurion shouting instructions through the window.
Timerius did not wait to be invited in.
"Good morning your highness."
"Good morning to you too. Is there a reason for your visit?"
"As a matter of fact, there is."
"I'm glad to know I can be of service to my prefect." Pertinax answered sardonically.
"Well, it has come to my attention that you intend to hold another auction, selling slaves this time."
"Not only slaves my dear friend" he said, with obvious displeasure in saying that. "I also plan to sell my two cargo vessels, moored in Austia, a few farms, and maybe some furniture as well."
"Your highness. I must say, most emperors have hobbies. For Augustus it was gardening, Commodus-the gladiators .and you... auctioning?"
"I'm not sure I like this tone. You know full well that I'm not selling my possessions for my amusement. You know that I have a problem with raising funds." He said dryly.
"I should have thought that after three months in office that problem would disappear."
"How can it disappear? I have fifteen thousand of your hungry soldiers to fend for. "
"I see. Why not raise more taxes?"
"I can't raise more taxes, until the end of summer. Usually we get the taxes after the harvest festival. you know that.. Get them drunk and then they will pay more easily. This is just the end of winter, what will they have to pay me with, mud?! "
"That's not your problem. Youre the emperor of Rome. You need money you take it. For the good of the empire ..."
"For the good of your men"
"Well..That too.. My point is that you can tax them whenever you want, cite some emergency. The Goths, the Vandals, those awful Franks" He said in a dismissing tone.
"Yes? And when they start to riot in the street because we just took their last few coppers, will you be defending my mandate? Probably not. You'll cut my head off and serve it up for them, get a new fool to sleep in this chamber... If you could call it sleep." he said, and Timerius heard the despair in his voice. "Might as well do it and get it over with. Come on, dont you want a new Caesar?"
"Your highness, please dont talk like that! I was merely suggesting that you can raise money by taxes" timerious answered with a hint of annoyance.
"Wonderful! Thanks for the advice. Even Commodus was sane enough to avoid that"
"Fine. Then maybe I can find a nice, rich family that conspires against you? Get some money from that. I can think of a few names. In fact, I can make a nice list for you. would you like that?"
"That's what Commodus did. The problem is- I have principles. I still believe in justice. And in the end, by the way, he was so hated for that" he pointed an accusing look at Timerius "..That you came to me, asking if I would mind replacing him."
"But surely.. some of them are conspiring. Just greed as a motive .."
"Listen... Timerius... A lot of these rich, treasonous families are my friends. At least they used to be, before I took the purple." He shook his head "No. that's not a possibility."
"Than I see that you have a problem. "
"Indeed I do. Now. May I ask you a question?"
"By all means, your highness. I am here to serve" he said dryly.
"Would you agree to accept only half-pay for your soldiers?" and seeing Timerius fidget uncomfortably, he hurried to explain. "I mean, they already earn more than four times that of a legionary of Rome. This will not be permanent, mind you. Just until autumn"
"No. no no no. This is impossible! Our guards patrol the city streets, catch thieves and assassins. We even fight fires when we need to. No. our responsibilities are much more than that of a simple legionary on the Rhine. We deserve more for this."
"In other words, you are afraid to be ripped apart by your men if you offer this to them"
"Not in the least. And I resent that you accuse me of cowardice. "
"Very well, I'm sorry that I made you feel like that. Forgive me."
"Your highness, if I may, I came here for a reason."
"And what was that?"
"I need you to tell me, honestly, whether you will be able to pay me, and my soldiers next month, and the month after that. Should I expect and prepare for your running out of funds? That is.. after all the coin that you gained by this auction runs out. Will you be able to do that? in the long run, I mean.." Timerius asked. A bold question.
Pertinax froze, thinking carefully of an answer.
"Yes" he said at last. "I will"
"Good ..Than I think we can part as friends"
"I shall always think of you as friend" Pertinax said. Not hiding the sarcasm in that. What audacity the leather-clad brute had. But than a thought came to him.
"I have a question for you" Pertinax asked.
"Like I said, I serve at your pleasure, your highness"
"Very well. May I know what would you have done, if I said 'no', that I didnt have enough funds?"
"Your highness. This is a lovely morning, and I would hate to talk about such things in such wonderful climate."
"Please. Indulge me." Pertinax said, a slight hint of command in his voice.
"Very well, your highness. If you would have answered no. I would have needed to start looking for a new Caesar to serve. My soldiers would not forgive me, you see, if I could not provide for them. In a way , I am like their father"
"That's very admirable, how you tend to your men."
"I do try. "
"Another question if I can?"
"Please ask, your highness."
"When Commodus died. Or rather, was killed. Why didnt you simply take the purple cloak, and become Emperor Timerius Leptis-Augustus?"
"I'm not a nobleman, not rich and besides my men, I'm not powerful at all. A Caesar needs to be at least one of these"
"I see. . . now . What of these qualities would you look for in the next Caesar you select?"
"Rich. Noble and rich is best, but rich will do"
"So you will not elect a powerful Caesar as my replacement"
"Not at all..never"
"Good. Than would you mind telling me, who of the rich, after hearing what happened to me, would want to become emperor?" Pertinax asked, pleased that he made the point.
"Your highness" Timerius said, after a short minute of thought. "Let's hope I would not be forced to such hateful errands."
He made his farewells and walked out of the palace in a foul mood. Collecting his men, who stood at attention in the courtyard. Marching back to the camp, he felt the paradox of both anger and weakness; a contradiction that can only be reconciled in the heart of a slave. By now, the morning's fresh air turned to a stink of latrines and slaughterhouses.
After calming his nerves with some honey wine, Pertinax called Felinious to his presence.
As he waited for the servant to arrive, he thought, contentedly, how he had confronted Timerius; It is a rare occasion indeed, he thought, when in the process of a confrontation between willful people, all that should be said, is actually said, and you dont walk away feeling humbled, often with a regret of forgetting several crucial arguments, that moments later seem clear and immanent.
Felinious arrived promptly.
"Your highness, I hope your meeting with the prefect went on good terms." He said, noting the near euphoric air. Perhaps he can broach the subjects of the auction again. Negotiating a better conclusion.
"It has." Answered Pertinax. "I want us to finish the subject of the auction. Have you prepared the list for me to check?"
"I..I have, your highness. I have prepared the list of the 208 you concluded that we need to have sent away." He said, handing the scroll to Pertinax. He opened it, and found a well-organized list of names, trades and departments of service in the palace from which they should be taken. It also stipulated the price paid for each of them, as well as their estimated value they should be sold for.
"A thorough job, Felinious. Commendable."
"Thank you, your highness. But I have some concerns."
"I see. What are your concerns" Pertinax asked, amused, Felinious would now presume to manipulate his decision. But he earned the right to have reservations, Pertinax thought thought.
"Your highness. There are a few problems. One of them is the venue of the auction."
"What is the problem? You will escort a detachment of praetorians with the servants to the forum, and have them auctioned. I don't see any problem in that"
"Well, your highness, if you want to reach a maximum of profit from the sale, than selling them all at once will not be a good choice. With so many slaves, their price will plummet. You will perhaps even get only as low as a tenth of the prices I've anticipated for them on the list. Perhaps selling them over a course of a few months, maybe ten at a time, would do better."
"A wise advice, Felinious. If I was a slave trader I would certainly do so. However, I have no choice in the matter. As you well know, the food we buy for them is on borrowed money as it is. By the end of the month, Timerius' men would come to take their money too. I need to sell as much as I can and as fast as I can."
"Very well, your highness. But perhaps we may, at least break the parcel down. If as you say, we have at least until the end of the month, than surly we can auction the servants at three different instances. And then.."
"And by then, perhaps, I would be assassinated and the problem solved?" Pertinax interjected. "Like I said , it will be all at once. Now. Are there any concerns, any other fears that I may alleviate?" he said raising his hand over his heart. "You know that my servants' well-being is of prime concern to me."
"There is another one, your highness. But I hesitate to mention it."
"oh . That sounds good." He said, laughingly "please tell me."
"I'm afraid your highness, that it will anger you."
"It is wondrous how a thing that hasn't been uttered yet already does that." he said, the smile turning to a scowl.
"Your highness, is surly aware of the personal connections between many of the palace slaves. I fear, your highness that perhaps a slave or several of them, attached to each other might try to harm you."
"Are you threatening me?!" pertinax said with a considerably raised voice. angry now. furious.
"Of course not. Your highness" he said, slightly cringing. "But it is a concern you must appreciate"
"If that will happen. All of the palace servants, slaves and free men alike, will be crucified. That's the custom in these cases. "
"True. your highness. But a brother, feeling the possibility of losing a sister, or a son- his mother, will feel that he has no other options. And desperate as they will feel, they will choose..Harsh measures." He said apologetically.
"Than I suggest that when choosing who to sell, you make sure that no family bonds be severed, if possible."
"Your highness, I have already done so, but we in the palace are a close knit family. There is great deal of camaraderie, there are romantic attachments that occur, perhaps without even me knowing about them. Surly you see that selling so many-so quickly, will stir a hornet's nest"
"I do see. I see that this is a ploy! Well designed, I must admit, to prevent me from selling the slaves. And I tell you that about my safety-I fear the praetorians much more than the servants. Now. I have given my word of honor to Timerius, that I will be able to pay him and his men, and they will, without a doubt, be far less ..accepting than the risk of an impulsive cook, wielding a kitchen knife. Now. Is that all?"
"Yes, your highness" Felinious said, slightly bowing his head in submission.
"Than I would like to set a date for the auction and have it done with. " Pertinax said, straightening the creases of his tunic, as was his habit, to calm himself down.
By the afternoon, when Pertinax had retired to the shade of the garden, word had spread; Felinious had made a last attempt to reason with the intransigent emperor, and could not succeed in changing his mind. An auction was to be held on Friday, in only four day's time, in the great forum.
Towards evening, the realization that there was at last no hope was shared by many. Many dear friends and lovers will be separated, sent to unknown destinations. There was no more bargaining to be had. All that was left was acceptance; A slave, born into slavery like most of the palace servants were, knew little of the real world, except of rumors, spread by those privileged to be sent out to buy supplies.
terrifying as the possibility of separation was, most had very little conception of alternatives. And those that did have ideas-quickly rejected them. Because what can a slave do? Or rather, what can a slave do-and also survive the repercussions ..
Felinious, disheartened by the morning's confrontation, had allowed himself the abuse of a prerogative; he resigned to his quarters, with a brass wine canister in his hand. There was little risk at the moment, of the emperor asking for him. Pertinax was magnanimous in victory as was the case in past confrontations. He would allow Felinious the dignity of distance, instead of the humiliation of calling for him. So Felinious drank. Let Rome burn, he thought, and closed the wooden door behind him.
After she finished with Pertinax's supper, Simbla was relieved for the rest of the night by her friend Zolsa, who smiled sadly at her; understanding the pain that she was feeling and happy to help her enjoy a few last moments with her man.
But Simbla did not go to meet Harigiton.
All through the day, anger and sadness swelled in her. She was a witness to Felinious' failing attempt to convince the emperor not to sell the slaves. And All through dinner, standing behind Pertinax, the old, weak man, she fantasized about taking the silver tray and bashing his skull in. But of course all that won't do. It is only free men who can let their passions run free.
She, a lowly slave had to grab hold of herself and conceive of better solutions.
She rushed in. and as the drunken, defeated Felinious rose from his bed in surprise, she struck him sharply on his cheek.
"Why did you hit me?! How dare you hit me?"
"You have let this happen! You deserve this!"
"oh. Simbla" Felinious said, rubbing his bruised cheek. "You know that there was nothing more to be said. I did not deserve this!" He said and added " I should have you flogged for the insult!"
"Shut up you weak, fat man! I was there all right. And when it was time for you to stand your ground, to cause him to fear-you suggested your arguments like a pig offers squeals to the butcher. I see that all you care about is protecting your precious hide. And the station you have made for yourself. You filth!"
"Simbla!" he shouted, "Control yourself" and for a minute, her posture changed as she overcame herself, subdued by his authority. But she quickly resumed her threatening posture.
"My man, I mean my lo-"
"I know about you and Harigiton." he said breaking her offensive
"It stands to reason for a young woman to take a lover and I am sincerely grieved that you will be parted." He explained "Now. I tried my best to prevent this from happening, but nothing can stop it. Save the gods striking Pertinax down. But gods dont listen to slave's wishes. They busy themselves with wars and triumphs and volcanoes, and leave our demands unattended. "
"Than perhaps we need to find a way of ending Pertinax' reign ourselves. "
"How would you do that?"
"I had an idea. "
"Good! Tell me. I'm drunk and in need of something to cheer my soul!" he said, groping for the pitcher of wine demonstratively.
"You underestimate me. I may be a slave, and a woman. But I stand by that man's side through many hours everyday, and have come to learn much of his business."
"Very well. I will listen"
And so he did.
Late that night, while Pertinax was well asleep, and the light of the full moon cast shadows of the latticework of the window, Mexilus was standing silently. He did not have any contraband, furnished to him by the beautiful Simbla. In fact, he had not seen her that evening at all. Why was that? He wondered.
Lately he had been having ambitions; A wife, a plot of land, some slaves. A praetorian guard is paid well, He calculated. But what do I do with the fortune I receive? -I drink it, gamble it away, or pry with it the legs of some girl. But it could be different. I could save. If I don't spend, live only on the rations served in camp (and whatever I can get at the palace) I could amass a fortune. And if Pertinax dies, it will be better still!; a new Caesar always pays a handsome tribute to the guards on his ascension. And with all that money, I could buy land, and maybe a wife. In a year or two, perhaps Simbla would cease to be Pertinax' comfort.
He will perhaps grow tired of her and then I will buy her and marry her.
It's possible. Why not? An orchard, definitely some fig trees, maybe some peaches. And olives. And grapes... But better not spend too much time in fantasy. Better work to the purpose in secret and only allow one's self to indulge in dreams for a short while.
The slight flame of the oil lamp. How relaxing it is to watch as the little form of yellow danced; slightly agitated to move this way and that by the wind.
And what was fire anyway? Was it a form of animal? Contained in the lamp but of a mind to be set loose, never content with the meager nourishment of the wick but hungry for more, ravenous. It could swallow the whole palace. But such terrible power will be almost immediately extinguished by a slight rain. No animal he knew was that adverse to water.
Than perhaps, it is another form of life, not a plant and not an animal. Something that lies dormant in old wood and paper, waiting to be sparked into life.
At that point, while the guard was reaching the basics of the theory of change in the solitude of his late office, Simbla approached from the shadows.
With her hand she signaled Mexilus to come to her, down the corridor, so that Pertinax could not possibly hear.
"Mexilus. Do you like me?" she asked whispering, her delicate fingers making their way under the shoulder guard and massaging his muscles.
"I do. You are so kind to me. So thoughtful . But why arent you asleep? "
"I can't sleep, my mind is troubled"
"What is the problem?"
"I'm sure you know that Caesar intends to sell many slaves in a few days"
"Yes. But I'm sure you are not among those that are to be sold"
"You are right. But I'm worried... Pertinax is selling many of his best slaves, and the slaves he doesnt plan to sell today, he will surly sell tomorrow"
"I see. And you're worried that you will be sold?"
"Yes and also I'm worried for my friends." She said softly.
"Yes... It would be sad to have to say goodbye to so many of the staff."
"We can stop this"
"We... We can prevent this from happening. There is a way. "
"What do you plan to do? Kill him?" he said nervously.
"No. I will not do that, because if that happens, all of the slaves will be executed, and many of the guards as well. "
"So what do you think of doing?"
"I need your help. I'm afraid to tell you, but I need your help. I'm afraid you'll betray my confidence."
"I will not betray your confidence. Never.. What ever it may be that you plan. If you have a plan and you need my help, I will assist you or I may not. but I will not betray your trust. You may tell me everything"
"Swear to me."
"On what will you have me swear?"
"Swear by the gods that you pray to, that you will not reveal my plan to another person."
"I swear it. I swear, by Jove, Hermes, and Minerva, that I will conceal your secret to the day I die, and may the gods punish me if I break my oath."
"My plan is simple. We will not kill Caesar, but your commander Timerius, will do the deed for us. "
"First, we will write a letter, bearing the imperial seal, where Pertinax invites general Levinius and his legions from the Danube, to relieve him of the dangerous praetorian guards. And that he will have a generous sum of money waiting for him and his men when they achieve his rescue from the city. This is the sum he intends to earn by selling the servants. It will be sent to the general but it will be intercepted by the guards and handed to Timerius. He in turn, out of fear, will have the emperor assassinated immediately. And in the confusion, the details of the auction will be forgotten. "
"This plan is astounding! " Mexilus said, having a hard time of controlling his voice. "You want to overthrow the government of Rome, to save some slaves from auction!! this is an extreme form of treason, if I ever heard of one. "
"Rome isn't run by Pertinax anyway. It is Timerius who chooses appointments it is Timerius who declares wars. And if an emperor doesnt suit his temper, he has him replaced, like he did with Commodus. "
"But if the letter isnt intercepted and reaches the general, your plot will be discovered. And-"
"-and if we succeed-we, the slaves will regain our safety, and you, you" and she pointed at him "will be handsomely rewarded for alerting Timerius to the dangers he is supposedly facing."
"What must I do? And I'm not admitting that I will help" he cautioned.
"All you need to do, is abandon your post in the middle of the night, when we tell you, while I slip into his chamber and use his imperial seal."
"But what of the letter? How will you get Timerius to intercept it? and what of the currier?. He will be tortured for certain. And reveal your entire plan!"
"Pertinax has daily communications with his generals, all of which pass first through Timerius's office for his approval. This is one of the reasons, by the way, why Pertinax wants to sell his horses, they are of no use to him, for his normal correspondence, he relies on the imperial courier service rather than his own private horses."
"Beside the official letter that he will send to the general that day, he I mean we, will send another one, not sent by his hand, but by an intermediary. The courier will not know who, because he collects many items of delivery from many people and has little possibility of keeping accounts of each item. But given a warning by you to Timerius, the entire contents of the mail bag will be searched, and the second letter will be found."
"So it will not be only to let you in to his bedchamber while he's sleeping. I will need to run to Timerius's camp and inform as quick as possible of danger, leaving my post!" He said excited.
"There are other guards, you could tell them that you need to be relieved, and then make your way, without causing suspicions."
"But what should I tell Timerius?"
"Tell him simply, that you saw a man, who was not the official courier come late at night to the emperor's suite, and leaving with a sealed document in his hands, to be delivered to a person unknown. Timerius's suspicion will do the rest."
Mexilus finished the conversation, pledging again his commitment to the cause.
Simbla kissed him in gratitude and that, perhaps, was what broke the spell more than anything else; he was not a learned man and in no ways a man of the world, but he felt suddenly manipulated and underestimated.
They, Simbla and Felinious where making use of his obvious affection for her, with disregard for his interests.
He was a tool to be used and a scapegoat to be sacrificed if something went wrong.
He stood there, tired and angry. Perhaps that was the greatest mistake; He had time in abundance to think things through.
A plot to end the life of a Caesar of Rome and to embroil his commander, a man he owed his loyalty to, in the trap set for him?
On the other hand-he had given his oath; on its own not a severe thing. He had made and broken many vows, but the wrath of the gods, as we know can be tempted so much, before they strike back.
At last he had come to a resolve.
With confidence that he was doing the right thing he left his post. He descended the stairway, where he met Licarius, a fellow guard and asked him to replace him at his post by the bed chamber. The man agreed, and Mexilus didnt give it a further thought. He hurried out of the palace and made his way to the camp.
Surprisingly, Timerius was not asleep. Indeed it was rumored, that the man only rested on even-numbered days, but his sobriety and his alertness was not expected.
Why has he abandoned his post?
There was news to tell. And he told all about the conversation he had with Simbla, including the conspiracy and his intended part in it.
With the news delivered, he stood at attention, waiting for Timerius' verdict.
"What you told me is commendable, and I am especially pleased that you held the loyalty to me above that of that shameless whore. For this you will be promoted, I guarantee you that. Now. We will have a drink together" and as he said that he placed two brass goblets on the table, and filled them with red wine.
".. And after we drink, I would ask you to hurry back to your post. I and a many more men would arrive as soon as I can muster them, to arrest Felinious and all the slaves suspected of this foul treason."
They took the goblets, and drank them down quickly.
"So run now, back to the palace, if the slaves suspect anything, they may be pushed to rash measures." Timerius commanded.
And with that, smiling and excited, Mexilus made his way back to the palace.
Mexilus was running, his spear, and his shield making it very difficult for him to see the ground in such a late and dark hour. But he ran.
With good speed he passed street after street, when he suddenly felt his foot as it stepped, deep in to a pile of dung.
The warm, moist sensation as foul juices slithered their way down and inside his sandals. He felt disgust. His right leg was sunk almost to the shins in the material. But he had his orders and without further delay, hoping that a brisk march will cause all of that noxious matter to fall off, he made his way to the palace.
He reached the gate, was entered in after giving the password and headed for Pertinax's residence.
But when he got to the main hall, there, to his surprise, he saw the emperor standing in front of Licarius-his replacement. Questioning him and shouting, with inconsolable rage.
There where others there, including Felinious and others of the household, woken by the sovereign's fury. When Pertinax noticed Mexilus, he immediately also noticed his muddied shoe, as well as the track of footsteps , left upon the rare Persian carpet that covered the hallway. A proof, screaming of Mexilus's desertion.
"Where have you been!?!"
"I had an important message to deliver to my commander, prefect Timerius, your highness"
"Oh really? In the middle of the night? While standing outside of my room?! You have come to learn of an invasion of the Goths? or was it the Vandals?!"
"No, your highness. It wa-" he tried to explain nervously.
"And what is this..sssstink?. How dare you present yourself in the presence of your emperor in such an untidy form? ! out in the brothels, I should guess and you certainly found a worthy replacement, to guard and keep me from danger. I caught him sleeping when I had to go to relieve myself. Although it always impressed me how a person could sleep standing up, I see now that with the benefit of a spear as your support, great things can truly be accomplished!" He said, mocking the other guard, who was justly trembling of fear.
Pertinax's face was red and as he cursed and threatened the two soldiers, drops of spittle freely flew, hitting all that came in their way. He will see them disciplined by the severest measures. An example to be made and feared by others!!
But then, Timerius appeared, he was accompanied with much more than the usual escort, but by an entire century , arrayed in marching formation behind him. He was let in without question and his company and the noise that they made marching through the gate, did not register in the ears of the emperor, busy as he was with his anger until they were right in his presence.
"Have you come to slay me, an emperor of Rome?!" Pertinax cried, thinking that this was the final coup. "What a state our empire reached; no discipline!! and even the emperor is killed by robbers in the night!" he let his rage out, there was no reason to keep it in check, and the fears that had built up during the few months of his reign, were finally unburdened. He would not gratify Timerius with submission. And with a quick movement he reached for a large silver candelabra, brandishing it like a sword in the face of Timerius.
"Your highness" cried the prefect, "I have not come to harm you. I came with my men with news of a conspiracy for your person. I brought my men to arrest the culprits and bring them to be properly tortured and executed!"
"A conspiracy ?! How came you by such news?" Pertinax said, not relaxing his hold of the candelabra. Suspicious and still very angry.
"By the dutiful and most loyal of a guard-Mexilus! Whom you have just.. ..chastised!!" Timerius said, gesturing with his hands for the emperor to relax.
"And what did he tell you?" demanded the emperor.
"That your slaves are plotting to have you killed, to prevent their sale by auction, including your palace magistrate, Felinious and a slave girl by the name if Simbla." And he told him the rest of Mexilus's report, while both Felinious and Simbla protested and denied the accusations.
"And why did he not alert me of the danger first?" demanded Pertinax "am I not entitled to know of an immanent danger when it comes?! why did he not rush to my bedchamber, and awaken me? Call for other guards to my defense?!" he demanded "I'll tell you why- because there was no danger at all! That guard behind me, Mexilus, has an affection to one of the house slaves, I hear them every night talking in the corridor, outside my bedchamber. Tonight, before abandoning his post, he had a long, loud conversation with her, I could not hear exactly what was said, but there was anger there to be sure." He said clearing his throat. "After that, your 'favorite' guard made his way, in revenge, to the camp, but it was not to save me-it was to condemn her!! Perhaps she denied him something he desired. I would not be surprised! She is a good girl, and I would never even consider selling her. But this worm, this half of a man, unable to get the thing he desired-wanted revenge! so he played you, rushing to your camp with news of treason. And a severe revenge it would be...and to accuse my dear Felinious." He said gesturing to the seemingly injured man "accusing my most loyal servant! That I can't believe! I trust him, and will trust him to the end of my days! To think that he would threaten him for his revenge is just horrible! It's monstrous! No Shame anymore!! And after you ordered him to come back, did he make his way straight to my gate? No! He went to drink something, probably to ease his heart and returning drunk, he stepped in shit! look at him!! For who but a drunk, would fail to see something like that?!" he said, and turned a second to Mexilus, and saw the immense anger on his face. "It is within my right as an emperor to expect loyalty from both guards and servants. And I see very little of that in him. I demand that he be crucified. Crucified!! as example for others. !" he exclaimed. After that he became quiet. Resting now after blowing the top in such a way.
We will never know why, perhaps it was his justified rage, or perhaps it was truly the gods punishing him for breaking his oath to Simbla. But by the time Pertinax had finished his torrent of abuse, Mexilus sword was already drawn. With one swift movement of his hand, with one blow, he severed Pertinax's head clear off.
The head fell, making a soft, watery sound as it hit the floor.
The body, supported by some remnant force, stayed elevated for a short while, until it too fell down, spilling copious amounts of blood on the precious Persian carpet. The candelabra, his form of defense clenched still in the hand.
Shocked. All were silent; the emperor Pertinax's reign was over.
Timerius quickly regained his composure. After all he was a seasoned veteran, and accustomed to violence.
He turned to Felinious: "old man, bring wine for my men, and let us both retire to discuss what is to be done."
Felinious, the spell of the horror broken, quickly gave orders for wine and refreshments. After all, it was early morning and the soldiers must be hungry. He said, hospitably smiling, over the corpse. Now was a time to be careful.
"in fact let everyone have breakfast as soon as possible, the day, surly will be a long one." He exclaimed.
Some servants left to attend for the provisions and the rest remained in proximity to the corpse, curious. The soldiers, relaxed now, had broken ranks and were talking amongst themselves. Worried and nervous, but also excited. Indeed they witnessed a thing rarely observed. Some approached Mexilus, but in a friendly way, questioning him. what was it like to kill an emperor of Rome? Did you truly go to a brothel on the way back? And he, in his shock and embarrassment could not speak and do little else but cleaning his sword with a small rag.
And Felinious climbed with Timerius up the stairs, to the royal suite.
They found the will, and burned it, it did not matter anyway; wills of assassinated emperors seldom are attended to. They carefully looked over the room. In search of any valuable or damming documents.
"what will you do now?" asked Felinious, as he leafed through parchments, consigning some to fire, while others of less historical interest-to posterity.
"Complicated to say. I will have to find a new man."
"A difficult task, to be sure."
"Yes. And I'm afraid it will not be as easy as it was after Commodus's death. The crowd didnt love Pertinax, but it was not hate either. "
"May I say, for my part, that there truly was no plot against him?"
"You can say what you will, but I believe my guard; He's not the smartest in my service and I dont think that he could have come up with such a complicated story by himself. "
"That may be, but I am innocent."
"I doubt it" he said with some bitterness. "but it is of no concern. There is little that can be done now. And by fate, it seems that your wish came true."
"I really did not plot against him!" protested Felinious.
"you can say that all you like! It doesnt matter." Timerious concluded, curtly.
"So what are you to do with me?"
"You have gained such trust in Pertinax's heart, that he chose his ignorance over reason, it says much of your character. A man like that is truly useful. I should think that you may retain your current position." he said smiling. He looked at the mirror, and cleaned his face of spatters of blood that had dried.
"You are most kind."
"Not at all, just pragmatic. A dead cat catches no rats, as my mother would say"
"So.. who will you choose as the next Caesar? One of the generals?"
"No, they will look at this mess and have me crucified"
"I see. Than why not yourself as our new glorious Caesar?"
"Is that a joke?! Of course not, too dangerous."
"So perhaps one of the senate?"
"Perhaps, but most of them are too poor to pay my soldiers' wages."
"I know of a few that can"
"so. Rich and weak. Is that the criteria?"
"Something like that. "
"I have an idea" Felinious said, smiling now.
It was a sunny day, and the people who made their way to the public forum had prepared their purses. There would be a horde of slaves from the palace and other trophies! And all sold in haste and consequently cheaply.
A day for bargains! Street peddlers sold cookies sweetmeats and fruit, to the waiting crowd. A troupe of Comedians displayed their refined satire, bemoaning the state of the empire in allegory. Thieves stalked rich prospectives, with expectations of fortunes made. And the sun, the wonderful sun caressed the faces of youths, as they enjoyed the end of winter.
On the stage stood the auctioneer, a man by the name of Suplicus; fat, friendly, balding man. He received the shade of a parasol, held by an Arab slave. Waiting for the merchandise to arrive. To himself he murmured about the stench of so many people, but no one would hear his complaints, save the slave.
At last, heavy rhythmic footsteps were heard, and shortly, a contingent of soldiers made their way to the stage. They stopped in front of the stage, turning in unison and on command to the crowd, brass and iron glaring marvelously in the sun. All were at their best, shaven and clean.
A man, of high rank holding a cloth-covered object, was seen rising to the stage.
He came over to Suplicus and bent down to his limited height. Conferring with him, as if in secret. For a moment Suplicus seemed shocked, as he jerked in surprise, but the soldier placed a muscular, hand on his shoulder and calmed him down.
At last, when arrangements were made, Suplicus nodded in agreement and smiled. And the soldier marched to the center of the stage. The clamor and murmurs died down and there was an expecting crowd, waiting for the auctions to begin.
"Romans, proud citizens of our ancient city. My name is Timerius Leptis, and I am the prefect of the corpus of the praetorian guards. Friends! Hear me! I bid you good day!" He exclaimed.
"I have momentous news for you!! The tyrant and usurper-Pertinax is now finally dead!!" he said, dramatically removing the cloth, and revealing that it was the head of a man, hung on the point of a sword.
There was talk now and murmurs and Timerius, long practiced in the art of oratory let them talk for a while. He held the head up for all to see, with apparent pride of his accomplishment.
"This emperor will not be grieved over, he was famous only for his avarice and luxury and not for benefits he bestowed on our proud city and our glorious empire." again he let a long pause.
The crowed, most of them of little knowledge of the goings-on of the palace, busy as they were with the difficulties of life and trade. Some nodded in approval, others waited for Timerius to continue.
"But now, we face with a difficult task. Who will be our new Caesar?"
Again a pause. This time opinions were offered in shouts and screams. Some calling for this man, some for another and the sweetmeat vendors still shouting for their products in competition..
With the reaction louder than what Timerius had expected, he gestured with his hand for people to calm down, forgetting that in his right hand he was holding the head of the king. Realizing the comical figure he was cutting, he carefully placed the head in the hands of the Arab slave, and looking more respectful, calmed the crowd. After a while longer, the madness subsided and Timerius resumed his speech.
"Most of you came hear so that you may purchase some of the imperial treasures. And I applaud you. It was no secret that Pertinax had run the empire into bankruptcy and therefore, your desire to purchase slaves, enriching the coffers of the state was an act of sheer patriotism!! Of love for our empire!!" He clapped his hands, in approval of the crowd and they, receiving the flattery cheered him and themselves for their greed and citizenry alike.
After a while, the enthusiasm died down and Timerius continued;
"And as you were prepared to pledge your money to support our state, I now want you to hold a greater sacrifice. If our state is in almost mortal need of coin, let us decide our next sovereign by auction!!"
After saying that, He nodded to Suplicus, who promptly moved forward, and started the auction proper. The auction for an empty seat.
The pretty butterflies sit on the armrest, and the backrest of the bench. They sit on me too. Enticed by the odour of the Salsa. more are coming. Landing delicately , their triangular wings a beautiful play of colors.
I love these mornings. Mornings here are just serene. Up ahead i have a nice view of the river. Small and large boats float by. Carrying the new arrivals. I really don’t feel that hungry, but i just can’t resist. I take one of the butterflies . dip it in the salsa bowl that forms the end of the armrest. This one is jalapeño flavored. Crunchy bliss.
I used to feel guilty about the butterflies, and the leaf insects that camouflage themselves as strips of sizzling bacon, over by the runny yoke fountain. But you need to remember that it’s not a bad thing. Not here. Just pace yourself. don’t overeat, don’t over drink. Find the middle road. Find the balance..
I hear slow sitar music, fits the scene perfectly. The player gives a bass note and goes wild on the upper clef. Running through an insane modus. The player might be getting ready for the afternoon festivities, or just doing his thing. I eat another butterfly and take in this moment. A bit below, by the riverbank, a guy is planting something. He digs a hole, puts the young sapling in. A bit of water. He steps back. The tree starts to grow. His newly forming branches sway to the rhythm of the sitar. Buds of rich leaves sprout and then it’s done. A new tree in the garden . i take another butterfly. This one is sourcream and chives.
Why can’t all the butterflies be sourcream and chives?
Why must this perfection be spoiled by ketchup -flavored, or teriyaki-flavoured butterflies? They don’t work with the salsa. But I mustn’t think like that. There must be some kind of pervert here who likes that. Must have had a sad background, to like that. Maybe i could form a support group for people who’s lives drove them to like ketchup-flavoured buttetflies.
But It all quickly melts away in the end. Doesn’t it?
We all come to love everything.
Even the ketchup-flavoured butterflies, even them, I’ll love some day. Even they, I’ll grow to love. Grow is the operative word here.
After all, I’ll be better off loving MORE than LESS , right?
I’ll have a preferance, for sure. But I’ll grow to love everything.
And then what? What will I become, when all the things that irritated, distressed, angered and depressed me just merge into new fields to love. Unploughed fields...Will I be able to love Britney Spears? Surly, it would take time for me to come to terms with the smokers. I can conceive of loving aniseed but could I possibly love drunk drivers?
A work in progress, i guess.
And when that time comes, and I forgive and love all those who did wrong, who betrayed their “better angles” , what will happen to me? How will I live with only love and joy? Will there be anything else? Something yet unknown to me? There is so much of this garden I haven’t seen yet.
Will i tour it as a super-content being?
Will I become a butterfly?
Will it be sour cream and chives?
You blew up half the city.
"Yessssss" said Dr. Heinous , "actually just34.6 percent, but the down town area. Now, I'm trying to work on this extortion letter. Could you check if it sounds bad. I'm worried about about the choice of words."
"Yes, master" i reply.
"It's my right to bear arms, i was going to use it for hunting . "
You never liked them , anyway, he says to me and project mayham continues...
Conan the barbarian was just about metallurgy
In a dark time , full of terror and dread, rose a fearless hero. Rising out of the snow mountain slopes of the Austrian alps, With his oiled muscles and limited english, he defended what was right and true. Then he turned to a soulless robot, then became a governor. His name was....
In the beginning, Conan’s dad, forges a great sword. In between work sessions, wanting his son to follow in the family business, he indoctrinates the young boy into the importance of resolve, by telling him that some day he will need to come before their god, Chrom, and answer what is the riddle of steel. He tempers his swords in snow, rather than oil, which causes the blade to be very hard and sharp, but also relatively brittle. The sword looks cool though. it is taken by Thulsa Doom , along with the young boy, just after he kills his parents and massacred his entire village.
Great guy, that Thulsa Doom..
Conan is taken as a slave. Later, his talent for killing becomes apparent and he wins his freedom. He enters an ancient burial mound and finds a sword for himself. It is so old that he just needs to hit it on a rock, for the original sheath to fall apart. Conan sets off to find fortune and revenge. At one point he is caught by Thulsa (the amazing James earl Jones) and the wizard explains to him the riddle of steel, before sending him to die of starvation as he is crucified
. (“That’s the least i could do”) .
Doom explains that steel and sword are meaningless. All that matters is the will of the person. He demonstrates this by asking a young girl to jump off a cliff, thereby crashing into a wooden stage. Her will to take action is supposed to be the reason why the wooden deck was demolished. Finally there is a showdown. Conan with his ancient sword and Doom with Conan’s father’s sword. They fight and at the climax Doom’s sword shatters. Conan kills him.
Now, could you say in this battle, whose will to action is greater?
It’s a fight to the death! Both of them have advantages on their sides. Both want to survive. What gives Conan the victory was the simple fact that Doom’s sword was made of such poor quality that it didn’t hold up even to an ancient sword.
Lesson from this is that there are truths that can be beyond what we can objectively measure. But when we are presented with irrefutable proof that the physical nature of things is present AND measurable, there is no need to go into convoluted explanation. Positivism is not a lie, just because it doesn’t have the tools to all our answers. All ye deniers of science beware. The riddle of steel is mainly a manufacturing question.
Scriptwriting sketch no. 1
Mr. Knot (Knot)- a man of simple pleasures.
Sam I am (Sam)-a mysterious man
Scene: a park bench lit in early morning sun. Mr. Knot sits on the bench, checks
his watch. Folds one leg on top of the other. Takes his newspaper. Starts reading.
Straightens his leg, checks his watch. He seems uncomfortable. Nervous.
Sam rides his scooter past.
Knot (aside): Sam I am! Sam I am! I do not like this Sam I am. Been disturbing
my calm. Offering me dubious breakfasts. Last time it was a plate of green
eggs and ham. Drove me mad until I caved in and tried. Had the runs for a
week. Hope he stays away.
Sam(approaches, slides his scooter in a neat turn.) Stands over Knot and beams.
Knot pretends he isn’t there.
After a while, Sam clears his throat.
Sam: would you like some herbal tea?
Knot: no thank you, Sam I am.
Sam: I see. You’re angry at me..
Knot: you think? You pushed that awful mess in my mouth the other day. You don’t
take no for an answer. I’ll give you that. Now, go away. I’m having my morning
(Sam sits down by him on the bench.)
Sam: would you like herbal tea? It really cleans you out. I can see you are a
person that values his health. Maybe I can even say ...
Knot: don’t say, Sam. Don’t say. I will not,would not , may not and muuust not
drink your tea. Not in a boat or with a goat, or with a fox, or on the rocks. If you
came here to give me a bad time, just lay off.
Sam:give you a bad time ? I wouldn’t. No. I want to make it up to you, Mr. Knot, by
offering you some herbal tea. All natural. Good stuff. I drink it myself.
Knot: oh. I’m sure you do. But I’ve been burned once...you really can get a job for the
CIA or something with your brainwashing stuff. Now, seriously Sam. This isn’t cool what
you’re doing... I’m actually waiting for someone. Business stuff..I think you better leave.
Sam: sure. Whatever you say, Mac.
(Sam gets up, body language shows a let down.)
Knot: eggh...fine. Don’t get all emotional on me. What kind of herbal tea is it
(Sam sits down again. Pulls out a thermos, a box of cardboard. Appears to be food supplements.)
Sam: oh. This? Just try. It’s Sage, Rosemary and thyme. I think there’s also some
ginger. Here, let me check....(checks) ..yup. Ginger and Nettle. Good stuff.
(He pours hot water to the cap, hands it to Knot. Then with his hands free, he
pours a packet of the herbal extract into the cup) there you go. Bottoms up.
Seriously, you should drink it slowly it’s really hot.
Knot sips. Face lights up.
Knot : hey, that’s not bad at all, nettles you say?
Sam: huhh. Yeah..nettles. Thyme too..
(Knot drinking the tea for a while, Sam looking hopefully.)
Knot: not bad not bad...(drinks more)
Sam: would you like to buy a box?
Knot: oh. Here it comes. I knew it.
Sam: jusuuut joking...but if you wanted.. You know..
Sam: it’s this self promotional thing I got into. I sell tea to you..other health
Knot: Pyramid scheme? Aren’t you a bit young?
Sam: no. It’s all good. They sell things in bulk, so very cheap. I set my own
commission. And if you buy from me and sell, I’ll get a cut from your sales
But you won’t feel that. The supplier.. company gives me that bonus...
Knot: kid, you’re in trouble. It’s a dead end. Google ’Pyramid scheme’ . Nothing
good will come of this. Trust me..
(Sam looks disappointed.)
Sam: but they have such good product.
Knot: so what!? Still not worth getting in bed with them.
Sam: but...don’t you like it?
Knot: the tea? It’s not bad actually, but I wouldn’t get in business with them..
Sam: no? Not in the train? Not in the...
Knot: don’t start that again.
Sam: fine. I was really hoping I could get you interested in this exciting business
venture. But I respect you, Mr. Knot. So I’ll leave you alone. It’s a shame
though. I was about to give you the antidote. You know, there’s more than just
nettles in this..But you want the mystery in your life, so best of luck. Be seeing
(And he rides away)