Conclusion - The Holy Orgy

     It was ten months later that Constantine Rudman realized that there should be some sort of logical connection between the instant Senator Naipaul began to garrote Elizabeth, and the morning after when all the survivors of the apotheosis of the saints woke up in their beds in their relatively good health.  When he told Vanessa about this, she kicked him in the shins, and said that she had noticed something wrong two months ago, and she had tried to tell him about it, but he was too busy badgering and begging her for sex, so she gave in just so to get that petty grimace off his face and that awful whine out of her ears.

      They had been living together since April:  once it was clear that Elizabeth was not coming back to her apartment, Vanessa asked Lucian to be her new roommate.  She agreed, and Constantine often dropped by to visit.  After he stayed over too many nights, and convalesced too many mornings after, Vanessa decided that Lucian should go back to her own apartment and Constantine move in with her.  At the time Constantine recognized that something very strange had happened that December evening, he had just finished his doctorate, and had converted to Judaism.  He immediately proposed to Vanessa, who, to everyone's surprise, eagerly agreed.  She had just finished her own studies, and both of them seemed to be destined for boring and mediocre careers in academe.  But, also to everyone's surprise, some of the stories that they had written had actually gotten published, and they could seriously consider a career as professional writers.

      Everyone, even Vanessa's parents, thought they made a very poor couple.  Although their political and religious and literary views were very similar the two were always arguing in public on these and many other matters.  Constantine's increasing tendency to dizzy spells, to have long coughing fits and general bouts of weakness, did not make him an impressive figure, while Vanessa was so argumentative and caustic she interrupted the rabbi marrying them three times to tell him not to be so trite.  And even their friends found them cold, stand-offish and elitist, and wondered why they had so many friends in the first place.

      The other survivors of the Cathedral of St. Michael Servetus remembered even less about that Saturday night in December.  And no one remembered less than Thomas Edward Harding, who returned to his office in the House of Commons on Monday morning, and, for some strange impulse of curiosity, decided to open the master box of dreams in his bookcase.  There was nothing inside, even the dust had decayed away, and Harding never dreamed again.  To his surprise he found that Dramsheet and Monagham were launching an investigation into his role in the death of Pr. Hermann.  The inquiry never reached the papers, but to everyone's surprise, Harding lost his seat at the next election.  He could not understand all that had happened to him, and when he died shortly after, he had no idea that he had done anything wrong.

      The children of Ignatius Wilentz M.P., and John Seinkewicz, M.P., were considerably more fortunate than Harding and Concrete's, but that does not mean that they simply lived happily ever after.  Quite the contrary, they lived very complicatedly happily ever after.  A few days after her arrival in Ottawa, Natasha was so upset at how wretched Philippe Roget was, so confused and helpless after being expelled from the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, that she married him.  This did wonders in restoring Roget's sanity and moral decorum, but it did leave open the obvious problem of bigamy.  Natasha however successfully argued that as a Catholic, Roget could be not divorced according to canon law, and she also argued that because the Roman Catholic Church accepted the privileges of the Canadian state over civil marriage, they could not object to her marrying Giles.  She then argued, that as a Jew, it was perfectly proper for her to have more than one spouse.   True, polygamy had been abolished in the Ashkenazi tradition for a millennium, but it had not been quite abolished in the Sephardic tradition.  True, she had been born, educated and bat-mitzvahed entirely in the Ashkenazi tradition, but she had received enough education in the Sephardic one to temporarily qualify as one.  True, even the Sephardic tradition said that only men could have more than one spouse, but Natasha argued that the Sephardic tradition clearly stated that rabbis could have more than one spouse, and she had both the literary and magical knowledge to become a Sephardic rabbi, which she proved by briefly turning the chief rabbi of Israel into a six-foot tall kosher parakeet.  Wisely, this was one case that Louis Dramsheet did not assist her with, but everything turned all right in the end.  Roget continued his brilliant medical career, and Giles was rescued from the job that was so very boring, even I've forgotten it, and dabbled in politics, numismatics and literary criticism.  Natasha was a charming hostess, and soon the possessor of half a dozen doctorates.  She worked hard at carrying out her father's not-exactly dying wish to have Nietzsche's books made part of the Talmud, and she soon became pregnant.  She would become pregnant several more times, and Giles was so confused as to whether he was the father or Roget, and whether he was the father or the unfather, and even whether it was Natasha who was pregnant, or whether it was either he or Philippe, because she occasionally let them carry the embryo while she had to go to some special conference that he had no choice but to love all the children equally with all the strength and power that he had, and so everything turned out very well.  Evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists were very skeptical.  But they were also very envious.

      As for Inspector Cheryl Monagham, formerly vice-inspector Monagham, she soon married the man who delivered the doughnuts to the police station.  He was, in fact, a stupid, boorish and insensitive man and he even forced her to give up her job, thereby cutting the family income 60%, and he poisoned and stifled her in a thousand ways.  But she deluded herself into thinking she was happy, and so she was.

      The Flannery O'Connor Brigade survived this debacle far faster than it had any right to, since it was after all an international organization with branches in every country.  Madame Vovelle retired a few years later, letting Pandora take over the Canadian operations, where she worked with Lightfeathers, and three other new Canadians, while Naipaul returned to Tanzania.  Madame Vovelle dedicated her twilight years to raising the six children of the six showgirls impregnated by John Locke with the semen of St. Thomas Aquinas.  The six were all kind and wonderful and charming, and they all became cardinals, even the girls.  Pandora became involved in even more bizarre machinations, which she informed her mother, and both of them were disappointed that Aquilla married a very ordinary man, and lived a very ordinary life.  Genet Vovelle never became more than the number twenty-nine man in his wife's life, and his eldest daughter never forgave his adulteries, until the day many years in the future when she received a ruby from her cousin's wife that reminded her of her maternal grandparents.  After that she was far more forgiving.  As for the concept of mermaid soap, the Flannery O'Connor Brigade tried its best, and the Siamese maid used it to conceive a fourth child after her husband's affections began to wane.  It worked perfectly.

      Eventually, of course, Adrian Verrall and Lucian Rudman did fall in love, though it was always a very strange sort of affair, whose details need not concern us, except that Lucian once tried to convince Adrian that he was an unwed mother.  As for Mrs. Concrete, she lost her seat in the next election as well, but to her surprise, she found that Ignatius had nominated her daughter, who was languishing in an asylum, to fill the position that Mary Lightfeathers had abruptly left behind.  After constant education and the best psychoanalytical approaches, Elizabeth Concrete Harding turned herself into a very different woman, who married a very different person from her first husband.  It was a long and arduous process, and it will also not concern us here.

      Since they were already rather old, Peter and Rebekah Wilentz retired as librarians and had a fine old age, with their minds in fine fettle.  They survived the birth of their first grandchild by several years, and they died within three hours of each other.  When Peter came to look over the house after the funeral, he was properly indignant that everything, except for a small box, had been left to Vanessa.  But then he heard the lawyer from the next room calling to him, showing him what was in the box.  The lawyer showed him an enormous ruby, which Natasha had given Peter's parents the Purim after the bloodpurge, and the lawyer eagerly told Peter that the ruby must be at least three times the value of everything else they could have owned.   He gave Peter the ruby and left the room, and Peter was left alone to stare at it.  It certainly was a charming bauble, and perhaps it really was valuable, but as Peter took a closer look at it he could not believe his eyes.  For in the center he saw images, saw reflections, saw a special light, and Peter realized that he was looking at the lives of the sixteen brothers and sisters he never had and had never wanted, and they somehow existed here in the special ruby in all their complexity and vitality, and the longer he looked at the ruby the more Peter realized that their lives were real lives, and were not the less real for being confined to the ruby,that they were real souls, and not simple images of obscure magicks or simply shadows before the mind of God.  And it was more than Peter could bear.  He shut the box and never opened it again, and he managed to wheedle Vanessa in giving him a third of her inheritance.  He put the money in a special secret Swiss bank account at a real interest rate of 7.5%, but he never touched it, and it just stood there and grew until two centuries later it was causing considerable trouble with the world economy.  Instead he went back to his work and worked as a loyal and devout accountant for another twenty-five years; then he retired, and then he died.  But before he died he had dreams, beautiful dreams, of being in love with his cousin.

      As for the Simrickys they still continued to live poor and not terribly happy lives, but their lot did noticeably improve when one of Sarah's daughters impulsively married an Arab Christian while vacationing in Cyprus.  After that, none of the fourteen Simricky's bones were ever broken again, and they never had to worry about anvils falling from the sky.  Meanwhile, Montserrat became seriously underchallenged now that he no longer had to pump paraquat on Peter's whims.  He eventually joined another company, married an attractive young woman, and deferred to the whims of his children far too often.

      It would be nice to say that Ignatius Wilentz, Louis Dramsheet, John Seinkewicz and Avare Roget Seinkewicz also lived happily ever after.  And indeed, Dramsheet went back to his work the next Monday with no problems, continued writing his book on Cavafy, continued to be unable to find a publisher, and still went on sea cruises, and still solved murder mysteries.   But after the bloodpurge he never dreamed again.  Meanwhile Avare and John thought that they should see a marriage counselor, and indeed they made wonderful progress, because as the counselor was such a moralistic, fashionable, and pompous prat, husband and wife had to cooperate very closely in gagging him so that he would shut up.  John was never hit again by a piece of rotten fruit, and after Natasha had given both Philippe and Giles a child (though they didn't know who was whose) she planned to give her mother-in-law a ruby much like the one she had given her uncle.  But before she could do any such thing the affairs of Dramsheet, Seinkewicz and Wilentz came to a very abrupt climax, which would be far too complicated to describe here, but will be fully discussed in a future novel.  Suffice to say, their fate was intimately entwined with the decent Progressive Conservative M.P. Stuart Reyanaldes, who represented the riding of Pseudo-Dorsetshire in the House of Commons, and let it also be said that Avare was left in tears at the end of it all.

      That only leaves Vivian Chelmnickon.  What did he do after the climax of his canonization service?  Well, early Sunday morning he met John Seinkewicz's assistant who, despite the fact that his employer had been severely injured by a flying Watermelon, despite the deaths of Oliver Corpse and Joseph Tyrone, and despite the complete absence of Vivian Chelmnickon for the previous forty-four hours, had made wonderful progress in ensuring Mrs. Chelmnickon's burial.  Vivian then walked over to where Oliver Corpse was supposed to be buried, and to his considerable anger he found that Corpse's coffin was in several pieces, and his cold blue body was lying in a shallow grave.  When he walked to Oakeshott Funeral Homes he found it in complete chaos following the discovery of the Assistant Funeral Director. Vivian confronted the director with his clear negligence in Corpse's burial, and a long legal process was begun with the eventual result that Corpse's body was returned to Poland, his last will was cancelled, and the director had to return the $10,000 bribe.  (And to make things even worse for the chastened director his young apprentice ran off with the delivery girl from Brimelow Florists after all.)

      As soon as he had buried his wife and his friend, Vivian abruptly resigned his position at Carleton University.  He wrote a few more essays, but he never taught again.  It was he who knew what had happened after Senator Naipaul began the garroting, and only Ignatius Wilentz knew as well.   For as Ignatius tried to explain to an uncomprehending Dramsheet, there was only one reason why you want to kill someone who was already dead, and that was because you could not kill that person when she was alive.  And there was only one reason why you would belong to a conspiracy to kill someone who was already dead, and that was to corrupt someone by making him kill someone who was already dead. And that was the whole raison d'etre of the leaden angels, who were angels of the Lord yes, but also angels of the Holy Prosecutor, Satan, or Shaitan, or the Prince of Darkness, which was a misnomer, because he was always suffused with light and he hated mankind because of the dark shadows that infected the human heart.  The Angels were tempters, yes, but the oddest thing was they had not committed a sin, they had told no lies, they had merely conspired to corrupt Vivian Chelmnickon into murdering his own wife, by offering him the opportunity to execute Elizabeth Concrete.  And that was why all the angels were female, why three members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade were women, why an Indian woman baptized Elizabeth into the church and why a black man tried to garrote her, so that in this racially balanced execution, the murder of Vivian's own wife would not become clear.  And there was no objection to the conspiracy, since the Lord in His infinite wisdom, allowed all evil and temptation.  The angels had not caused the bloodpurge, they simply knew that human muddling in the box of dreams would make it inevitable.  They had not tried to execute Elizabeth Concrete, they merely let their servants go ahead with it.

   Nor had they ever lied:  it was true that the lead on their wings was the result of the corruption of this world, they simply failed to add that the force of pure love would repel all impurity.  Since humans rarely felt that sort of pure love, and since they hardly needed to show love for their moral inferiors they considered it irrelevant to add that improbable proviso.  And they had not lied when they said that their service would save Vivian Chelmnickon and ensure his canonization:  they simply failed to add that the only way to gain salvation was to reject sainthood, and they also failed to add that salvation was not that difficult to get, or that important to obtain.  And they had not lied when they said that Hermann had talked with the Holy Ghost:  they simply failed to add that the `Holy Ghost' was the pet name for the confused and generous angel who assumed the role.

      And when he realized that it was not the grotesque sexuality of a foolish young girl he was objecting to, but the sexuality of his own wife that he hated, and when he realized that her sexuality implied his own, and how much bad faith there was there, and when he realized that when he said he had washed his hands of Elizabeth Concrete, he was condemning his own wife to death, and when he realized that and much more, he rose from his place in the circle, and yelled at the top of his voice, and he ripped off his robes and special signets and all the other sings and symbols and threw away the sainthood.  And there was a great rush of wind and confusion, and then all the survivors were back in their beds, and in good health, the Siamese official got all his blood back, and Monagham's leg wounds vanished, because having failed, the leaden angels had no wish to go any further or cause any harm.  And all this Ignatius told to his lawyer, who was too Catholic to understand it, and who simply agreed to whatever he said, because he wasn't really interested.

      But despite having rejected a fiendishly clever and ingenious temptation Vivian Chelmnickon was not happy.  Instead he was unhappy, full of guilt, and when he left Canada he never returned to it, but he did not return to Poland either, or even Britain.  There were enough anti-communists in Paris who requested his presence, but after a few months their sycophancy grated on his nerves.  But despite this and despite the pleas of the Seinkewiczs and the Balcorewiczs he could not leave, he realized he was trapped, a trap of suffering he had once cleverly devised himself.  He wrote fewer essays, going through the old books and debates became more and more painful, and he spent more and more time writing long letters in his Paris flat to his many friends and admirers.  As he approached the end of his life, the pauses in his days grew longer and longer, so that in the last month of his life the few weeks were longer than all his preceding years.  In those days, all he could do was brood, meander endlessly on a single theme, on how he could have murdered his wife, and he always came up with the same answer, it was all too easy, and all he could do was ruminate in pain on how he could be so cruel.  And as the final minutes slipped by like hours, days, weeks and months, and years, he wondered how he could ever be forgiven for this and so much more, until the final instant came, eight years, five months, and four days after the bloodpurge, when he realized that too, was all too easy.

      And so ends the novel, except it doesn't, because Vanessa Wilentz and Constantine Rudman lived beyond his death and lived a very different sort of life.  At once, objections can be raised.  Constantine hasn't done anything: he's weak and neurotic and self-pitying, and he even needs Vanessa's help to write a story, which, however effective it might be in getting women to sleep with you, is hardly an accurate model of artistic creation.  And where was the great moral test in the Cathedral of St. Michael Servetus?  Here was the perfect opportunity, (the devil's advocate, no less!) to make a grand moral statement, to be a fine example of character development, and he botches it!  Why should he (and Vanessa) live happily ever after, and live creative and fulfilling lives in the bargain?

      It certainly wasn't a perfect marriage:  among other problems Constantine was a very poor lover and perfectly capable of adapting some piece of fashionable mawkishness in order to cover up his conduct.  Vanessa never fell for these outbursts of sentimentality, and as time went on she wondered how the two of them could have sex without Constantine spending the next six hours with a fever.  So from time to time Vanessa would surprise Constantine in his university office (or perhaps she would surprise him when he visited her university office) and before he could protest she would handcuff and blindfold and handcuff him again, and in this bondage would seduce him in a skimpily clad ugly whore's outfit with ludicrous stiletto high heels that he always hated, in the hope that pure lust would prevent any inconvenient love.  But there was always some vestige of love hanging around, and it was in these perfectly awkward poses that Constantine fell ill the fastest, which meant that he would be too weak to remove the handcuffs and get rid of the gag and help untie his feet together, which meant that Vanessa would have to do it for him still dressed in that skimpy whore's outfit, with ludicrous stiletto high heels, while there was someone knocking on the office door, and the whole building was so cold that Vanessa would come down with pneumonia as well.  Even before he was thirty Constantine was often so weak that he required a cane.  Vanessa could not help but consider her husband slightly ridiculous, but he had his revenge, of a sort, because in contrast to the very innocuous pregnancies of her mother, or her cousin, Vanessa's were extremely painful, and often her body was racked with pain and agonies in the most unnecessary places.  This did not prevent her from doing her work, but she did have to rely heavily on Constantine's help, who, after six months of enforced abstinence, was at the height of his health.

      And so to everyone else they appeared as a querulous couple who by their thirties had to wear large dowdy spectacles, with three very plain children who also had to wear large dowdy spectacles.  Political enemies called Vanessa "Novelist most difficult to imagine pregnant" and called Constantine a eunuch behind his back.  And they had the annoying habit of getting into the most byzantine arguments about the most irrelevant topics of the day, while generally ignoring what other people might want to say, and sometimes being downright rude in indicating their lack of interest in other people's topics.  And so almost everyone assumed that they would get divorced in a few years time.

      But they never did.  And it wasn't just the fact that they never argued about money, or about who should be doing what domestic task, or that no-one else would ever want to sleep with them.  Because after all they did argue about whether they should go to synagogue, or whether they should buy such and such an object or what story they should publish or indeed whether they should publish it at all or what book their children should be reading or what television program they should be watching or how they should be dressed for whatever ceremony.  But although they always argued with obstinate petulant muleheadedness, there was something very special in their petty diatribes, as if their spite had been mixed with leftover holy hydrochloric acid.  It was clearly the only possible reason that Vanessa grew to like her husband's incompetent sexuality, and not merely because his illnesses gave her the perfect excuse for sick leave.

      And in their home they read.  And argued.  And they read not merely literature, history, antiquities, and sciences, they read also about atrocities, and about torture and censorship and arbitrary imprisonment and about the spreading culture of euphemism and lies, and not only did they read about these atrocities, they remembered, and they wrote letters and signed appeals and circulated petitions and they translated books and they even translated light vicarious works just to show that there was more to many cultures than an agony of suffering and pain, and they wrote essays and they lobbied governments, though with little success, and they taught their children all the atrocities, just as they helped them read before they were four and made sure they read everything else and knew how to play Mendelssohn and how to tolerate and enjoy Wagner, and admire Pessoa, even if he was fond of Salazar and to play with dreidels and cryptography and chess, and they only gave the victims what they deserved, which was justice and memory, and they attacked everyone, from the socialists who took eugenics seriously, to the liberals who advocated and committed those crimes that were so horrible that only liberals could commit them with a good conscience, to the countries that committed such crimes, or that let them happen, or who didn't protest them when they could have, and they were so outspoken about the cheap cant about Canada being a "victim" of colonialism that they lost many friends, and they read more and more from every literature and every language and learned every language in order to translate it, as they raced against time against the bloodpurge, though they couldn't race very well, because Constantine desperately stumbled even with a cane and Vanessa's glasses were now ludicrously thick, but race against the bloodpurge they did, against the blood that cried out to heaven that stained and stunk everything like the bloodstained Vermeers, and the Paradise Lost with the green smudges of Irish intestines, and murdered Midianites and the architecture made of solid slave laborer blood and the ever present pompousness and hypocrisy and euphemisms and much more and soon their bedroom was a sea of notes for essays on Montale, on Hagiwara and Agnon and Trakl and Gombrewicz and Appelfeld and Maghouz and Adonis and Wen-I-To and Tosun and Asturias and Vallejo and Arguedas and Achebe and many many more and never Margaret Atwood and their hands were smeared with ink and Constantine had to stay in bed all day after their children had all grown up, that eventually they never got up to wash their hands, and they just read more books and wrote more essays and had more sex in an orgy of love, knowledge, lust, fanatical learning, idiotic passion, bad faith and guilt as they wondered what more they should do and what more they should learn and what they had done wrong which they should have done right, as their endless quarrelling became a prayer that was its own answer, a sacrifice that was its own answer, as they never achieved peace of mind or satisfaction or happiness since that was not the point but instead continued to write more and read more and afterwards dictated more since Vanessa went blind from reading too much with their whole skins the colour of ink as they tried to help more people and learn about more people, and this was right, because in a world like this, in a world this treacherous and cruel, guilt and love were the only honorable ways to react to a world that had done this to Jolanta Niemczyk Chelmnickon.

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