The Secret of Natasha Wilentz
"I'm the what?"
Madame Vovelle explained. "You're the devil's advocate. You're going to present reasons why Professor Chelmnickon shouldn't be canonized."
"But that's completely absurd. I can't be a devil's advocate. It's insane."
"Why? It seems perfectly rational to me."
"Well, all sorts of reasons. I don't know any Latin."
"You don't have too. All you have to do is to know how to read it."
"Not really. I'm sure you're literate enough to pronounce words in foreign languages. There's no requirement that you have to understand the words that you're speaking."
"But I'm not a Catholic. I'm not even a Christian even longer. I'm actively considering converting to Judaism. I can't be a devil's advocate if I'm an apostate."
"That sounds like an excellent qualification for being a Devil's advocate."
and all the other members agreed.
"But surely you recognize the right of courts to summon people to testimony before grand juries. It's the same thing."
"No it isn't. I'm bound to a pillar and forbidden to move."
"Well that's only because we think you would run away. But we will compensate
you for your time." And with that Madame Vovelle snapped her fingers
and the Siamese maid emerged from another room wheeling a tray and carrying a
folding chair over to
"I'd rather be free and far away from here."
"Please. Show some politeness. What do you want first?"
"Um, the broccoli, but I can't stay here." But below him the
Siamese maid was sitting in her fold up chair and cutting the broccoli into
bite size pieces, so before
"The presence of the angels makes them redundant."
"And I've heard nothing about Chelmnickon being beatified."
"Again, the presence of the angels makes that redundant."
"And besides Pr. Chelmnickon isn't dead."
"An obstacle, but fundamentally unimportant."
"And what's this about miracles?"
"It is an established fact that Vivian personally converted a convinced communist to Buddhism, and it is also an established fact that he cured a horrible venereal disease using nothing more than baking powder."
"Oh you must be mismarfshk-I mean you must be mistaken. I left your sister several hundred meters away from here."
"Are you sure? Because I can smell her in this room. I can smell her menstruating feminist parenthetical humping meandering structuralist hair, and the scent of her lactating liberalism, her lactating compassion dropping like blood red Eucharist wine on my accounting ledgers, it just fills my stomach, and I can't stand it. But more important there are my horribly smelling parents just a few meters from me and I can't stand it!"
By this time Ignatius had joined the others. "Nephew, why don't you just sit by me and Dramsheet? I could give you some attar of rose chewing gum."
"Sir, couldn't you just nibble on the eight little bars of soap that you keep for emergencies like this?"
"They won't last fifteen minutes. No, I want my paraquat pumper and I want it right now!" and with that he marched right up to Pandora Vovelle, who was just letting her snakes run freely around in her clothing. "You! Give me back my paraquat pumper!"
"Is something wrong here?" asked the leading Angel.
"I want my paraquat pumper! I want my paraquat pumper!"
"I can't give you your paraquat pumper." explained the Angel very reasonably. "It's at the restaurant Senator Naipaul took you from. We're very busy right now, and I'm afraid no-one can go over there and get it for you."
"But I want it right now! I want it right now!" and Peter jumped up and down and started screaming.
"But I think I can provide a substitute." And with a wave of the angel's hand the Cathedral of Saint Michael Servetus was no longer filled with the stench of Jewish semen. The Cathedral hadn't been filled with it before hand, but now it really wasn't filled with it. Even Peter couldn't smell it, and he was so amazed that for the first time in years people saw him smile.
Rebekah Wilentz spread out her arms. "Peter, isn't this wonderful? Now we can all be a family again."
"Not really, I never liked the two of you very much anyway." Speaking very softly to himself he muttered, "It's obvious the two of you never loved each other, or me. You're covered with red shame like a Bergman film festival." Turning to the Vovelles, he asked "Now do I have to stay here all night?"
"Here," said the angel. "Have a walking stick."
One materialized out of nowhere into Peter's hands, and he ooed and ahhed like a little boy. But having quieted one Wilentz only ensured that another one would be asking annoying questions. Ignatius Wilentz could not believe he was seeing a Christian canonization, and clearly expressed his doubts.
"There are no grounds for doubts." said Madame Vovelle. "Our deceased leader talked to the Holy Ghost himself."
"Nonsense. He must have been talking to a very confused lower angel, capable of falling to all sorts of suggestion."
"Will you please be quiet?"
"I think I should investigate this more closely."
"Do not approach the circle." commanded Miss Lightfeathers.
"Oh shut up. I'm just going to look for a few minutes."
Lightfeathers took out the pistol and aimed it at Ignatius. "If you approach the circle I will be forced to shoot you."
"If you pull that trigger, you're fired."
"I warned you!" and there was a deafening shot and a flash of powder and nothing else. Ignatius never loaded the guns that he kept along with the other assorted antiques in his house. "A good maniac is hard to find." He then looked a little more closely at the Murderess and the head angel and then walked back to his place beside his lawyer.
Madame Vovelle approached
"How can I examine him? I barely know the man."
"But surely you must have an opinion. Legionmeister of the Signet of
St. Luke, I want you to assist the advocate in all his duties."
"Are you having trouble beginning?" asked Vivian, sincerely concerned
"Well, this is something new for me."
"I understand. Could you loosen the piano wires bonds?"
angel right above
"There's no need to call me a professor."
"Chelmnickon, this is insane. You are one of the most important intellectuals in the entire world, you write articles for the most respected journals, you have a regular sinecure at The New Republic, you are too intelligent to believe these people can canonize you. Now..."
"Perhaps you should save it for later. Come on, this is madness. Do you look like a saint? Do you go out of your way to give all your money to completely unknown people? Are you naturally loving and affectionate? Are you in for hairshirts, and fasts and flagellations and for sitting on the top of tall towers? Are saints supposed to be married?"
"There's no objection to their being widowed." said Naipaul.
"Look, Orwell said all the saints should be considered guilty until proven otherwise."
Roget snorted. "But does that really mean anything?
Considering your fashionable left-wing opinions I think not. You despise
Orwell, but you are so cowardly you want to enlist him as an authority whenever
you can." Vivian smiled. It was a completely genial
smile, filled with boundless compassion. It was a simple wry smile,
merely wishing to prod
"I was. But no longer."
"You've stopped being one? And you wrote a book, The History and Limitations of Hegelian Analysis, describing your rejection of Marxism?"
"Ah. I see. Very interesting. Thought-provoking. Naturally you must have a lot of real experience of Polish Communism. Now your book says that Stalinism cannot be described as a perversion of Marxism, but as a perfectly legitimate interpretation of it."
"Yes, that is the argument."
"But that's completely unfair. It's wrong on so many counts, and I don't
where to begin. Not that you are the first person to say that Marx was a
horrible person, you're merely the most talented. But it's wrong, all wrong,
and I still don't know where to begin. We could begin with Weitling, Weitling
the tailor saint whom Marx in his lust for power and domination and dictatorship
humiliated before an entire meeting and succeeded in having him purged.
And this was even before 1848, when he (Marx) was still in his twenties, but
it's all crap, there was a meeting all right and Weitling was argued down by
Marx, but it was hardly an official meeting, it didn't stop the organization
from inviting Weitling back a week later, so he couldn't have had him purged,
and it was Weitling, not Marx, who argued for a pure dictatorship, with himself
as the messiah, and who later went to the United States where he supported
Tammany, slavery and the anti-copernican movement. And it was Marx (with
Engels) who was the first socialist to argue for a pure democratic movement, with
the workers (or proletariat) liberating themselves, without some conspiratorial
sect doing the job as in Babeuf, Blanqui and Bakunin, without hoping for some
wonderful leader, like Owen, Hess, Lasalle, Proudhon and once again
Bakunin. And one of the first things he did on joining the League of the
Just, aside from getting it to call itself the Communist League, was to remove
all the secret codes and the artisan masonic mumbo-jumbo, and that the same
rule was done with the International, and that it was Bakunin who wrecked the
International, because he wanted to manipulate it for his own ends, and he
deliberately sent orders, or his followers did, telling their delegates to get
them expelled or cause a split, if they couldn't take it over, and there was no
proof that Marx stacked the 1872 convention that expelled Bakunin, for the majority
voted Marx down on as many issues as they agreed. And so that when Bakunin
said he was a fearless libertarian betrayed by an authoritarian Marx, it was
complete crap, complete lies, complete garbage, because every one of his
conspiracies was absolute and under his complete control, and he kissed
Nicholas I's ass and even praised the king of
"This is all very interesting
"Oh, come on you're kidding."
"I know perfectly well what Marx meant by 'dictatorship of the proletariat,' and it would be idiotic as well as cruelly frivolous to blame Stalinism on Marx's illnesses, or his sex life, or any other of his idiosyncrasies. I have completely different objections to Marx and you can see them in my conclusion to The History and Limitations of Hegelian Analysis."
"Oh come on, don't tell you're the only person who wrote both a competent and honest work on Marx."
"Many books on Marx are really very bad, but I did not write those books and I did not take most of them very seriously."
"Really? Then I'm sorry. I've wasted your time. It's me who's being frivolous, it's my fault entirely. The simple fact is that despite being your student I've never read The History and Limitations of Hegelian Analysis, and I have no idea what your book is about. It's laziness really, and it's all my fault, you see I couldn't bear to read, because it would upset my preconceptions and to read about how the Polish and Czech and the Slovak and the Soviet and probably the Hungarian party used anti-Semitism for its own foul purposes would be too depressing, and all those Maoist hectatombs--10 million? absurd! 20 million ridiculous! try 60 million, or is that only potential deaths and absence of children and most of them were in the Great Leap Forward famines, which I think, but I'm probably wrong, were not deliberate famines, like the Ukrainian ones under Stalin, but were caused by ideological blindness, like the Irish potato famine, I'm not really sure, I couldn't bear to study it, but Communist atrocities are not the sort of thing you can exaggerate..."
"Chelmnickon didn't." said Roget.
"And the fact is that I'm not really a Marxist at all. It isn't simply fashion, because it could hardly be fashionable in this day and age, but it's just a nice cover for my contempt of society, which is intimately linked with my own self-loathing and my own incompetence and my own weakness, and it was really appalling for me to even question or even to disagree with you, even in the silences of my soul, which I don't really believe I have anyway, since I don't really believe in God, anyway it was really wrong to even charge you with misunderstanding Marxism, even if you had made any of those misunderstandings, because you actually lived in a Marxist country and it would be wrong for me to even judge you or criticize you, because I can't imagine what it would be like, and I've mischievously refused to do the research in order so that I could find out..."
"That's all very interesting, Mr. Rudman, but could we get back to the examination?"
"It's pathetic really, and you've been so courageous and honorable and intelligent and well read, and I couldn't even name a single book that Karl Jaspers ever wrote, and you're probably so open minded you probably take Eric Voegelin seriously, and you can take a whole host of conservative thinkers seriously, and they're all so profound and clever, and I'm too stupid and vain to have even heard of them. My God I'm so wretched, I'm such a fraud and a poseur, why I haven't even read Nietzsche, but of course who has? well you have and so do all your profound conservative colleagues, so I can't bear to debate someone who has read so much more than me, it would be pathetic really, and of course the way I keep confessing the more likely you're going to forgive me and tell me it's all right and give me practical advice so that I can evade the crucial fact that I haven't even begun to tell you the truth, that the worst things I've said are shadows, mindless parodies of my real vices which I'm too cowardly to mention, which I will bring to my grave and let them rot inside me and..."
"Will you shut up!"
"...eat up my own insides if that makes any sense, and there are my own parents who I barely talk about and am certainly not going to start talking about them right now, and if my girlfriend were anyway nearby, and I hope she isn't because she'll probably get caught she'd realize not only what a bastard I am, but what a silly and pompous and utterly solipsistic bastard I am, and I can't imagine anything can't understand how you work so hard, the way you do, how you can be so virtuous how you write so much and be so ingenious and compassionate, when all I deserve is to be spat in the face, or some other fate which I mention in the selfish and deceptive and dishonorable way of avoiding it, because if I said I deserved to be spit in the face, you naturally wouldn't do any such thing, and you'd probably deny all the shit and cheap iconoclasm and bastard self-criticism, and vinegar harangues that I call down upon myself and which doesn't change my basic character my conduct my attitudes my actions in the slightest one way or the other, and I can't imagine..."
"Murderess, Permission to kick the devil's advocate in the balls in order to make him shut up."
"Permission denied, Legionmeister, and watch your mouth."
"When do we start serving him the cheesecake?" asked the maid, but just
"And if I get too close to preparing a case, you're going to slap my face again?" And with that Roget slapped him again. "Don't be cheeky. I have here in various pockets of my coat all the information you need to present your case against him. First, here is a list of all the political prisoners that he wrote appeals and signed petitions for. As you can see it is a long and generous list. Second, in my left hand, here are all the parking tickets that he incurred as well as all the cheques he used to bribe annoying police officers."
"But there's nothing in your left hand."
"Quite. Third, in my right hand, are all the testimonials from all the prostitutes he ever used and all the drugdealers he ever patronized."
"But there's nothing in your right hand either."
"Quite. You're learning fast. And here is a list of all the penances he has performed, and here are some testimonials from the various priests he has met."
"But I can't believe Chelmnickon can be a saint. Saints are supposed to generous, kind, forgiving, full of love and understanding, tolerant and patient. In fact a saint is someone who can be said to be psychopathically so. I mean, I suppose Pr. Chelmnickon is a well respected person, but he does not strike me as the submissive sacrificing type."
"Neither do Ignatius Loyola and
"You have a point. If they can be saints anyone can."
"Pardon me," said Vivian, "but if you're a Marxist, what would you have people do in your Marxist utopia?"
Roget nodded, and continued giving information. "I have here a list of articles that Chelmnickon has written, and I have an official affidavit from an African cardinal saying that Chelmnickon's work is peachy keen. I have in this hand a list of all the charitable contributions he has made, and in this hand I have a list of all the gifts he gave to his intolerable wife, and right here I have something just for you, Vivian." And with that he threw a small object, smaller than a hand, right at Vivian who blinked when it was thrown at him. He opened his eyes and found himself staring at the Galczynski cross.
"How did you get this?"
"That is not important." (Actually Dr. Roget had used his prehensile ears to pick up the cross when he leaned over Mrs. Chelmnickon after she had been crushed by the leader of the grand pianos.) "What is important is what exactly it is."
"What is it?" asked
"It's an obscene crucifix." said Chelmnickon
"No it isn't," corrected Roget. "The cross is holy, it is the symbol of our salvation, it cannot be cheated or worsened or degraded in any way. It therefore cannot be obscene. What you hold is a pathetic, worthless, cheap meretricious attempt to sneer at the Catholic church. And what you hold happened to be your wife's favourite possession, because there was never a moment during her entire adulthood when she did not feel the rutting lover above her breasts. And she wore this cross every day of your marriage and she wore it every time the two you had sex. Why?"
with that the Defender of St. Rose of
"I can't really explain." muttered Vivian.
"Of course not. How could you?"
"It's not as if I wanted to have her always wearing this cross. But whenever I tried to get her to remove it, she would give me a black eye. If Oliver were still alive he would confirm that. There was no other way she would let me touch her."
"So why touch her at all? Why not just ignore her?"
"Because having sex with her was the only way he could get her to leave her alone." None of the people in the circle said that. Instead it was John Seinkewicz, followed by his wife and child, as the Romanian official brought them, at the same time that the Peruvian official brought in Mrs. Concrete and the Sierra Leonian official brought in Mr. Harding.
"Hello sister." said the Murderess, aka Madame Vovelle, aka Catherine Roget. "You look awful."
"Of course she looks awful. This Romanian bastard beat her to force to come with us. He also took our wedding rings, even Giles'."
"Really," said Pandora, who walked over to the Romanian. "Angel, if you could please restore my unfortunate aunt to normal." And in a twinkling of an eye Avare Seinkewicz was herself again, and in another twinkling of an eye, the Romanian official was groveling on the floor while Pandora took the rings from his pocket and distributed them to her relatives. "A good Romanian is hard to find."
Harding was still confused. "Excuse me, but do any of you people have anything to do with my son's murder?"
"Very probably." groaned Monagham.
"Is everyone here?" asked the Murderess.
"No," said the Holder of the Averroes Seal. "Rudman's sister, Seinkewicz's nephew, and Vanessa Wilentz are missing."
"The Finnish and Andorran officials will find the first two very easily." sniffed Pandora.
"Elizabeth Concrete Harding is also not here. We have no idea where she is at all. I don't think you sent anyone for her, Master of the Marthas."
"Well that's hardly my fault. It's not my fault
"Excuse me," said Mrs. Concrete. "I'm a little confused. Isn't it a wonderful coincidence that Mr. Harding should have a niece with the same first and middle name as my daughter's?"
"Uh, Mrs. Concrete." interrupted
"Aunt? But I'm only an only child."
"Now I think we were talking about the cross." said Roget.
"No," said the Angel. "I don't think that's relevant. Vivian could clearly not change his wife's mind, the only way he could have persisted was if he had insisted on a divorce, clearly not something we desire. Whatever his conduct, he acted out of fidelity and love. We will now change the subject to something more enlightening."
"You can't just throw it out. Without it we don't have a case against him."
"Legionmeister," interrupted the Holder, "the point of the exercise is to present a case, not to win it."
"I don't care!" shouted Roget. "This is a farce, and I am not going to take part in it, I am not going to play along any more. I tried to get my wife's cousin pregnant for no reason other than simple vindictiveness, and I am not going to go on with this. I've gone on producing brothels of chastity, inventing imaginary saints, liquidating innocent eggs and getting involved in madness and death. The simple fact is that Pr. Hermann was not a saint, he could not have known God, for he committed suicide, and we are sick self-deluding fools, and this service stops now!"
And with that he pulled with great flourish a revolver that the Holder carried on his person, whose bullets the Defender had taken out while Roget was announcing his objections to the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, and which the Defender had also jammed with chewing gum. So when it was clear that Roget could do nothing, the others tactfully removed him from the circle, and bound his hands and put him in the wicker chair that Pandora had sat in after her snakes had bit her.
"What happens next?" asked Vivian.
"If the devil's advocate has nothing more to present, then the service will now move to the sanctification phase. This will require the five of us angels flying in formation in the vault of the cathedral. While that happens you and the others humans will be allowed to walk around for a few minutes."
"Does that mean I can be untied?" queried
"No, we will have need for you later, and besides you haven't eaten your cheesecake yet."
"Wait one moment." exclaimed Vivian. "I'm receiving some
sort of image in my mind. Actually a large number of images. I see
a woman so beautiful, that even the mobius strips fall in love with her, a
woman so beautiful that if she were a pawn in the chess games played by the
Emperor Akbar, who used slave girls as pieces, she would capture the king,
she's going to be here very shortly. I also see three other things, a man
the same time Lucian Rudman and Adrian Verrall, along with the big blue
bouncing ball, were still being chased by the Finnish and Andorran embassy
officials. They had been chased through Dairy Queens, through garbage
dumpsters, through nightclubs and pleasant suburbs, through park benches and
secret fountains that were shut off for the winter. On their way Lucian
would set off fire alarms, while
It was a very nasty looking cemetery, not so much ugly and unpleasant as it was cold and lifeless. It had been bought by a real estate speculator who though that having this much good land right in a fast expanding suburb would be good collateral for a loan. He then had it converted into a cemetery to lower the property taxes, and in order to do that he had tore down all the trees, and uprooted all the pleasant bushes. The cemetery was really a barren field, ("Spartan Gothic") bordered by a long metal fence. Most of the field was still unused, and there was so much snow that most of the graves were completely covered. (Of course, this was partially a result of the Oakeshott Funeral Homes propensity for building very small tombstones.)
minutes passed, and then the two officials started on their journey, armed with
peculiar looking devices, which launched tight spinning automatic nets.
They could be fired from a distance three times any snowballs Lucian could
throw, not that it mattered since Lucian had no real backup plan after she
pelted the officials with them. Indeed, the whole field was a hideous,
barren sea of snow, where it would be easier to drown than to escape.
Their capture appeared inevitable and no doubt it would have been were it not
for a very peculiar incident that occurred just before the officials realized
that their victims were behind the next large drift. There was a loud
sound, like someone groaning, or like someone creaking, and it was so loud that
it even woke up
a full minute the four people and one bouncing ball did nothing at all.
They just stared at each other across the snow drifts because they realized
there was something seminal in that strange sound, something of profound
importance. And then the ball decided to announce its theories, and this
broke the spell. The Finn reached for his net casting device, only to
find that it had broke in his fall. He tried to get up again, and lost his
balance while doing so, giving Lucian and Adrian the chance to make a run for
it. And for once the ball actually helped them, and by bouncing up and
down, it helped smooth out the snow, and in other places it seemed to compress
it so hard that they could actually walk on it, in fact race right across
it. But just when they were actually gaining some distance from their
pursuers, and just as Lucian was reaching the graves, there was another hideous
rumble, and the delicately packed snow that
"You actually love that strange woman?" said the Finnish official, as
he and his colleague reached the snowgrave and started pulling him out.
"I find that absurd. I mean that woman is so masculine and peculiar
I would only think that a homosexual would care about her. That's
revolting, do you know what we do to homosexuals in
"Um, you give them full civil liberties and allow them to lead productive and fulfilling lives without government interference?"
"Well, yes, but it has to be said that there are a lot of Finns who wish that wasn't the case. And when I say 'a lot', I really mean 'some,' whose numbers will rapidly decline over time."
Finn then gave
Just then the blue bouncing ball popped by to rescue
"All right, let's drag him back to the car."
"Ball, do something more helpful!"
Just then, Lucian appeared again, armed with a whole host of snowballs.
It was not easy for her to make much progress in the snow, and she dropped most
of them long before she got within firing distance. But she threw just
one snowball, and the next instant the two officials were dashing with their
undignified snowshoes back to their car.
For there was an earthquake. It was a huge, incredible powerful earthquake, though, once again like the earlier ones, there was no sign of it outside of the cemetery so that when the Andorran and the Finn drove back to the Cathedral of St. Michael Servetus their trip was not interrupted or hindered in any way. And indeed the quake did not upset any of the graves or disturb any of the coffins, buried safely beneath five feet of snow as they were. Or, the quake did not upset the grave or disturb any of the coffins with the one noticeable exception of the grave and coffin where the quake was originating from.
For underneath the grave where there was supposed to be placed a tombstone in the next five weeks reading "Oliver Lelewel Corpse" there was a huge hideous subterranean sound, and then the sound like the cracking of five metre tall walnuts, and then there was another sound like the smashing of a glass lantern made entirely of earth, and then the earthquake stopped and Lucian and Adrian got out of the small little avalanches that were the first to be seen in Ottawa for millions of years, if ever at all, and as they wiped their faces, and cleared out their eyes, they could see the all too speakable, but still unbelievable sight of Oliver Corpse emerging from his open grave, exactly the same volume and weight as the first two cars ever bought by a Pope.
It was not as if Oliver Corpse were somehow not dead. He was most certainly was; he was not a zombie, or a ghoul, or a ghost, or any of the permutations of the above. But it would be wrong to call him inanimate, because he was in constant motion, because he was constantly growing. Indeed Oliver Corpse had been growing at an accelerating rate ever since Vivian had told the angels to restore him to normal, ever since Vivian had been saved from the smell of Jewish semen, ever since Vivian had met the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, ever since the service for canonization had began. He was in rather good shape for a corpse, since his increasing size had frightened away even the bacteria, and it was too cold for the worms to try, and he did not look as white as he should have, as the blue light of the moon gave him a special shade. Moreover, there was the effect of Corpse's clothes; he was still wearing the fine suit that he had worn when he had hanged himself and when he had poured a quart of cyanide down his broken throat, and though the coffin, a very fine coffin indeed, could not withstand the pressure of his increased growth, and even though the grave could not keep him buried forever, his clothes had been designed to withstand any pressure as the price for Polish dignity, so that he could have expanded to the size of the planet before his clothes finally snapped, even if the resulting constriction made him look like a hideous purple monster.
To the desperate fascination of Adrian and Lucian, Corpse was still growing. Once he was the size of two small cars, the next minute he was the size of a large garage. Then he was the size of a large oak tree, and soon he would be the size of the Cathedral of St. Michael Servetus itself. And as the legs grew to unbelievable size, one leg had to stick out a 90 degree angle to the other as it grew and grew. And then the centre of gravity shifted and the outjutting leg full with a heavy boom onto the ground while the other leg was lifted up in the air as a balance. For a few moments it seemed that the completely dead corpse of Oliver Corpse would actually learn how to walk. But even Adrian quickly realized that was an illusion, that the increasing size of Corpse would soon make movement impossible, and it would not be long before the whole corpse lost its balance completely and came crashing down, completely flattening the poor people underneath it. And as Corpse grew faster than they could run, and as Adrian and Lucian could hardly run in the snow anyway, it appeared that their death was inevitable.
As the huge purple face of Corpse loomed above them, as the shifting balances was even enough to move his eyelids, now as large as garden chairs, up and down independently of each other, and as the whole body was just a few seconds, a minute at most from collapsing right on top of them Adrian had an idea. It was not a very good idea, it was probably a very bad idea, but he did it anyway without thinking. He waddled his way through five foot drifts and reached Lucian, and then pushed her down into snow. "Bury yourself in the snow. I'll try to cover you!"
then turned to see the final totterings of Oliver Corpse and so didn't see an
infuriated Lucian recover herself. She yanked
And then a peculiar thing occurred. Corpse did not fall and crush the two as he should have. Instead he actually started to shrink. Not very much, mind you, only a handful of decimeters, but it was enough for him to start tottering in the opposite direction. With this the blue bouncing ball saw its opportunity, and bounced right up to Oliver's head. Corpse could not hear its singing, could not see its happy azure bouncing, even though his tottering still forced his eyelids to open independently of each other, so there was no reason at all why the ball should have any effect on him at all. But it did, for a start his face was no longer so purple, instead it became a form of accentuated pink, before turning into an interesting shade of turquoise and then into a more acceptable variety of cadaver blue. Of course this did not stop Corpse from growing, indeed while all these colour changes were occurring Corpse was slowly regaining the decimeters he had briefly lost, until he was now even larger than he was before Adrian and Lucian had pushed each other into the snow drifts and he was now even tottering in their direction again. But this did not stop the blue bouncing ball, quite the contrary, it still kept singing in its very happy way, but there was something strange about the ball, its voice had changed. No longer was it the happy vibrant somewhat childlike voice that shouted "Hi there!" just before Adrian made another fool of himself before another smashingly beautiful blonde, no longer was it the voice that sung nursery rhymes to narcissistic guilty mathematics students before giving them all the licorice they could eat, no longer was it the voice that tried to talk to rampaging Wallace Stevenistas, no longer was it the voice that tried to tell the secret of T.W. Adorno to power-mad grand pianos. No, it was a completely different voice, a voice with completely different aims and goals, and yet it still had the same happy virtue, the same pleasant benevolence, but it was not the natural benevolence of a happy five year old child, which is how Adrian and Constantine and even Lucian were inclined to view it, it was the faith of a much older person, a person who had learned much of the nature of evil and petty cruelty and mindnumbing stupidity and simple dullness and shallowness and downright uninterestedness of much of life, but notwithstanding that was still loving and kind, and it was only when they heard this new voice that Adrian and Lucian realize that because they had thought they were listening to a five year old child, they had never speculated to what sex the ball was, but now the sex of the strange blue bouncing ball that had appeared to Adrian one fine evening three years ago just after his cousin's wedding, that sex could not be denied, it was so obvious. Of course, none of this stopped the corpse of Oliver Corpse from being subject to the laws of gravity and now it began to fall, first in a great rush, then at a moderate run, and then at the proverbial snail's pace, when it actually stopped thirty degrees above the ground. And as Lucian and Adrian stared up into the air at the enormous body that was not falling on them and not crushing them to a pulp, though it certainly should have, as no self-respecting inanimate animate object would let itself stay up in the air like this, the ball bounced over to it and still kept singing in its strange new voice and to the amazement of the two people cowering in the snow the corpse of Oliver Corpse started to shrink so that it was no longer the size of the Cathedral of St. Michael Servetus, no longer the size of a large oak tree, no longer the size of a small garage, no longer the size of the first two cars bought by a pope, no longer even the size of a melted piano, no longer even the size of an inordinately fat and depressed person, but was now the size and only the size and finally the size of Oliver Lelewel Corpse, and the ball placed him in the broken coffin, which it did not know how to fix, and laid him to his penultimate rest.
"You did it!" said Lucian. "You shrunk the bastard!"
"Yes, I suppose I did." said the ball.
"Well. I'm. Just. Going. To have to kiss you." and Lucian assumed her best Charles Ryder swagger, and borrowed all the mannerisms from all the dashing young murderers in Agatha Christie and even borrowed all the snobbery from all the W. Somerset Maugham and Ford Madox Ford novels she had never read, and gave the ball the most passionate masculine kiss that English novels could allow right on the top of the blue bouncing ball.
And with that there was a sudden gale, there was a sudden burst of wind that was so powerful that it was even more powerful than the earthquakes, and even some of the leaves outside the boundary of the cemetery were affected, and the first gust of it was enough to drive Adrian back into a snow drift where he stayed until everything calmed down. For where was once the blue bouncing ball, there was no longer anything but a vortex, a series of spinning concentric circles of forces, cadences of beauty, as something materialized, something that showed the scent of fruits before they were painted, someone who showed the virtue behind the laws, the love behind the legal codes, the garlands behind the prayers shawls, the roses behinds the rose water, the special souls who created toys and who were the humanity behind the daggers, the special soul who was so utterly beautiful that the only men who did not fall to her charms were her father and her solicitor, the special woman who was Natasha Wilentz, present in Canada for the first time in three years. As Natasha gracefully put on the special shawl she had conjured to keep her from the cold, Lucian swore by the memory of David Hume never to kiss anything again.
"Come." said Natasha. "We must go to the Cathedral of St.
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