June 30, 2006

Fun with President Bush

On "learning" about the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush reportedly reacted as follows: "To the extent there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so. The American people need to know that the ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street."

Presumably, this final remark reflects Bush's relaxation at the news the Hamdan case will not result in his immediate impeachment and removal from office.

But what of the rest of this sparkling verbiage? This is an opportunity to delve into the cognitive workings of the Leader of the Free World and see what's up. Assuming that his verbalization is symptomatic of underlying thought processes, let us deconstruct this quote phrase by phrase:

1. "To the extent there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether..." Right away you get an inkling how screwed up this guy's thinking is. (It never takes long, in fact.) First of all, "to the extent" and "latitude," as used here, really amount to the same thing. "Extent" and "latitude" cover identical ground. The phrase could have been stated, "to the extent we can work with Congress to determine..." The latitude is implied in the phrase. But what does the phrase mean? Here we follow along thusly:

2. "or not the military tribunals will be an avenue..." The first thing that comes to mind here is, why wouldn't there be "latitude" to work with Congress sufficient to figure something out? Of course, the "latitude" exists to talk to a bunch of other Republicans about Bush's burning desire to find something that comports less with procedural due process than Uniform Code of Military Justice procedures. Bush doesn't need to be anxious that someone in the Republican Party, including Arlen Specter, is going to go so far as to suggest Guantanamo scum deserve an actual "trial." Let's not get ridiculous. These are people (we guess - no one in authority has ever said, and very few of the Gitmo inmates have ever actually been charged with anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time) who supported Osama bin Laden's 9-11 attack. As did Zacarias Moussaoui, who was recently tried and convicted in a federal district court in Manhattan. But these people are different. They were captured "on the battlefield" and are therefore more like "enemy combatants," much like Jose Padilla who was captured on the battlefield of Chicago's O'Hare Airport and classified an enemy combatant, although he's an American citizen. Fortunately, we're a nation of laws, and not an autocracy run at the capricious whim of one man, like some countries we could name. Where were we? Oh yeah. So the latitude is there to figure something out, George. You don't need to "determine" that part. What is it you're trying to figure out?

3. "whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court,..." Well, George, there you go again. The "military tribunals," as you cooked them up, are the very thing the Supreme Court said you couldn't use, because you usurped Congressional legislative authority, under Article 1 of the Constitution, to determine UCMJ rules and the applicability of the Geneva Conventions. So I can save you time here. In using your latitude to discuss things with Congress to determine anything, don't bother talking about the military tribunals you pulled out of John Ashcroft's ass, because those are off the table. Although keep heart: Congress will come up with some Draconian amendment to the UCMJ to get you closer to your true hope of staging your very own Show Trials, just like some of your heroes used to do. Leading to the summary:

4: "an avenue in which to give people their day in court." Avenue is such a sunny, cheery word. Alas, the whole point of your star chamber procedures in the first place was to make two things certain. That the Gitmo detainees never have a day in court, and that they never have an open forum to discuss all the Geneva Convention violations inflicted upon them. The idea of a "day" in court, however, sounds just about right. Thirty minutes, to be exact.

So what is George W. Bush actually pledging to do, when you read his statement as a whole? He is saying he will figure out whether there is any point in talking to Congress to see if they'll go along with his kangaroo court. Read it through carefully and you will see the man revealed.

Simpler Times in Israel

Three Wise Men In Attendance, Bethlehem

FIRST WISE MAN: (to Joseph)

It's funny, he doesn't look much like you. Doesn't even look Jewish.


I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm not the father.

FIRST WISE MAN: (shocked)

No-o-o! What are you saying to me?


Not that this should shock you, but he's God's kid. She told me.


Uh, Joe. Look, she hadda come up with something, okay? It happens.


I think it's true.


Your wife's shtupping God? What kind of town is this?!


Not actually God, I don't think. But how do I know? Apparently I was the last to know about a lot of things. God, you know, He could have asked. I mean, He wrote the Ten Commandments, not me. Seems like two of them covered this. But she's saying the deed itself was done by an angel.


I mean no disrespect, Joe, but it's tough to compete with that. You take great care of yourself, don't get me wrong. But an angel…So the kid favors the father, you think?


Time will tell. From what I hear, the angel was blond, and sort of….radiant.


You don't think....?




Well, anyway, we'll leave this stuff here.


Tell you what, fellas. The gold is great, and thanks. But the frankincense and myrrh, please, it's bad enough we're in a stable.

(Exeunt all)

June 29, 2006

What, Them Worry?

One idea that floats around in my mind and occasionally alights long enough for me to think through its implications is this: suppose Bush's prosecution of the war in Iraq is not incompetent, as it is so frequently described by liberals, but is going exactly according to plan?

The liberal critique is based upon a false equivalence between Bush's values and liberal values, in my opinion. The critique misses the mark precisely because it presupposes that Bush's overarching presidential agenda has something to do with the commonweal, i.e., is directed toward improving the lot of the "ordinary American."

Another approach taken by the Left and by Administration critics generally is to call Bush a tool of Big Business and a corrupt neo-Fascist, who serves only the interests of the Big Money whose agenda he faithfully executes. I would surmise that Bush's more-or-less constant support at about the 35% level is comprised of 2 principal groups, (1) a cynical tycoon class lacking public ethics and (2) religious and militaristic morons. 65% of the American people fall into neither class and thus see Bush for what he is. But what is that?

I descry a tension between these two viewpoints. In a sense, it can't really be both. How could Bush be incompetent at protecting and advancing the interests of the American commoner and competent at retaining the support of Big Business for his actual agenda? Competence or incompetence is more of a piece than that. Bush can accomplish what interests him. It is simply that the welfare of the American people, as a whole, does not interest him at all. This, I would argue, is the true meaning of debacles such as Katrina, and why Bush strenuously argued for giving the United Arab Emirates, home of Flight 175 Pilot, Marwan al-Sheihi, control over America's main sea ports. He just doesn't give a shit.

I never see this paradox discussed. I think it's because the Left is so busy describing Bush as an idiot they overlook the inherent contradiction. Bush is not an idiot; he is an intellectual mediocrity, to be sure, but numerous corrupt leaders with autocratic tendencies have been intellectual mediocrities. The limited intelligence is not a serious obstacle to achieving corrupt goals when the leader is backed by the full force of a police and military apparatus, as Hitler was, as Stalin was, as Castro is. In Bush's case, he has the full backing of a solid Republican majority, duly elected, whom he has never vetoed, and who will enact any legislation he really cares about (tax cuts and war funding) and will only resist on symbolic issues Bush does not really care about (immigration and gay marriage) for reasons of local electoral politics.

So Bush has gotten nearly everything he wanted and accomplished the main goals of the money class. Iraq fits into this picture very nicely. Halliburton, for one egregious example, was trading at $20 per share in 2001 and is at $70 per share now. Cheney holds 433,000 stock options on Halliburton, all of which are now in the money to a greater or lesser extent. The VP signed an agreement to donate any profit on the exercise of these options to charity as a means of avoiding serious conflict-of-interest problems. Worrying about Halliburton and Cheney specifically, however, is another hobby horse of the Left, who let such easy targets obscure the view of the larger picture. A broader picture would encompass a perspective that a slow, grinding, protracted stalemate in Iraq is perfect for Big Business. No other approach can yield such high financial returns from the prosecution of the war.

Consider the alternatives. A quick and efficient victory, turning over a stable government to the Iraqis, would end the gravy train, frustrate bomb and munitions makers, deny defense contractors huge paydays for Humvees, personnel carriers, helicopters, etc., and probably result in a decrease in the defense budget generally. Similarly, a rout of American forces (which won't happen) would also terminate the feeding frenzy. What works perfectly, like Baby Bear's porridge and bed, is a protracted stalemate in the desert. We neither win nor lose, and any call by the Democrats for withdrawal is called "cowardly" cut and run politics which will "embolden" America's enemies.

That's actually pretty good, when you think about it. Bush deliberately screws around in Iraq so that the conflict consumes his entire presidency and then (successfully) complains that any criticism is "defeatist." The National Priorities Project places the current cost of the war at $292 billion, and of course a compliant Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, will authorize any further funding requests from Bush so that they can claim to "support the troops."

Ah yes, the troops. That is one possible downside of playing rope-a-dope in Iraq. Over 2,500 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and probably 6 times that number have been seriously wounded to such an extent their lives will never be the same. From each fatality or wound, effects like ripples on a pond spread in all directions to affect sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives. They are, however, "volunteers," and cannot be pitied (so the reasoning goes) for being asked to do what they contracted to do. In this case, as George Carlin neatly summarized, their job is to carry out the war plan. That plan is to ride around in a truck until you get blown up.

I think until the American public as a whole simply accepts how deeply cynical, venal and plutocratic the Bush administration really is, it will never accurately analyze why BushCo does things the way it does. The arrogance of the Left is that it imagines that its very simple analysis, that America doesn't "have enough troops," or that we failed to secure the ammo dumps, or that we disbanded the Iraqi Army too soon, etc., were all tactical blunders that only the Left can see, and "Bush" (actually, Rumsfeld and his High Command) were unable to perceive. This seems fanciful to me. Of course they could see the same things, and the option has always been available until recently (when troop deployments have been overextended) to dramatically increase the manpower in Iraq.

But why do that? Why not keep cutting checks to Halliburton, to Bechtel, to KBR, to Sikorsky and Bell, to Martin Marietta, to United Technologies? Think about it. The federal government's hands are tied by entitlements to a useless payout of pensions and health benefits under Social Security and Medicare. A large part of the budget is spoken for before Congress and Bush even start talking about what can be spent on favored, inner-circle defense businesses. But that residual, that remainder, commands a lot of respect and loyalty among defense tycoons, and the American arms merchants, whatever the fate of the rest of America's moribund manufacturing industries, continue to lead the world. They make big money peddling death, and they depend on the federal government to promote war, to stir up hostility in the world, even to turn the world against us, so their services never become unnecessary. And when they make all that money, they keep it, thanks to Bush's other great obsession, "tax relief."

He's not incompetent. He accomplished what he came to do, to shift the burden of government onto the backs of America's disappearing middle class, and to suck off the federal largesse for the benefit of the fat cat cronies. Mission, that is, Accomplished.

June 28, 2006

You May As Well Stay Here, Right Now


You can’t actually remember anything, he said.

Apropos of nothing, not even of the still air or the drooping leaves above the slatted table, rickety in the uneven gravel underfoot.

Try it. What do you think is vivid for you?

The tennis games, with a friend. Years ago. My knees creak now, there isn’t much flexibility in my back, I don’t flow as I once did. So I don’t play. But then we did. I looked forward to it even when I didn’t.

Try to remember a point.

Okay. I serve…

What did you do? Describe all of it.

I toss the ball with my left hand…

Can you see your hand?

Well, now I can…

But not a moment ago. You were going to rush by that, the way you would see your upturned palm. You saw it then, when you hit the serve, but now, as you describe it, you weren’t going to say anything.

Well, how much time do you want me to take to describe one serve?

Then don’t describe it. See it in your mind and make it happen at the same speed as the serve really happened.

He took a drink from his tall glass of mineral water and put it back on the slatted table. The paint-scaling top of the white table. The table wobbled a little, and parabolic waves washed to the lip of the glass.

I’m doing that.

Who else is in the picture?

Well, I see my friend across the net…

There must have been other people at the court. Who are they, what do they look like, what are they doing?

I don’t know.

Does the serve go in?

I don’t know.

Is it returned? What does it sound like? Where are the clouds in the sky that day? Where precisely on the blue concavity are they located, and do they move as you do after you serve? What do the people do that must have been there?

I can’t see any of that.

You must have seen it at the time.

Probably. Maybe peripherally.

Much that is central is also missing.


Making love. There must have been transcendent moments.

Yes. Of course.

Try to remember one such moment, and follow it with your mind keeping all perceptions in view as you follow it, her eyes, did they grow bigger?, the color of the walls in the room, the pattern of folds in the sheet, the feel of entry, the warmth of skin, the play of light through the window. How much can you see?

I can only see one little thing at a time.

And the one thing you can see, you can’t tell from which time, can you? You’re remembering a composite experience, an idealization of many events as if they happened all at once. Did you commute to work?

I felt a great weariness as I said yes.

Try to remember how you went to work.

I took the ferry across the Bay for awhile.

How exotic. For how long?

Three years. Maybe four years, maybe five even.

He took his right index finger and brushed down the right side of his gray mustache. He smiled. Try to remember a single passage. How many times would you have crossed? Two hundred times a year, twice a day? That’s perhaps two thousand trips. That’s 1500 hours, shall we say? That seems right. That’s sixty-two and a half days of travel, two full months of nothing but riding on that ferry all day and all night. Can you remember a trip?

Parts of one or two. At the beginning. I usually worked a crossword.

Try to think of a word. Try to remember one intersection of words in one puzzle.

Nothing comes to me.

How did you get to high school?

By bus. Then by car, later.

Can you remember a single trip to school? From start to finish?

No. One day we were on a semi-circular street, in an old coupe, and we stopped to pick up this guy who had a deformed hand. I remember being first aware of that hand on the way to school, one morning. Though I’m not sure we were going to school, or why we picked him up.

I can’t remember anything completely.

No you can’t. Yet do you think you live to acquire memories?

Sometimes that seems the point of accumulating experience.

Yes. But an illusion. You haven’t acquired anything you can ever retrieve.

No, I suppose not. But still something.


Something was there. A feeling.

Yes. That is what you are left with. A feeling. A million feelings, emotional senses, reactions, the flow of blood to the skin, the rush of anticipation. In those sketchy fragments the feelings are caught up, like dew on a spider’s web. That is what remains after the moving wave of time pushes by the moment. It is why you have been so skimpy in your description of where we are. A few remarks about scaly tables, a few leaves, a glass of water. It will all be lost anyway.

It’s inevitable.

I won’t trouble you further.

© 2003

On Reading Emily Dickinson and Seeing An Inconvenient Truth, All in the same weekend

Oh Lord I doth fear
We have made the Earth too hot this year.
Everywhere, the signs are plain to see,
First, glaciers melt like
Niagara Falls,
Then Vegas-by-the-Sea.
I think we should have dialed it back
Before the Pole un-froze
We can’t expect a polar bear
To swim like Murray Rose.

Alas, there was a time I hoped,
When humans, loathsome turds,
Would bear their folly all alone,
And not the beasts and birds.
But no; we’ll take them as we go,
And not by dribs and drabs,
When greenhouse morphs to runaway
And oceans boil their crabs.

Sir Hawking says we ought to flee,
To Mars or deepest space,
And save a vestige of our genes
To wreck some other place.
With all respect for such a mind,
I can’t but thus remark,
Let’s send the creatures in our place
A Noah-less Noah’s

June 25, 2006

Plato's Odyssey: A Story from the Poltiical Nightmare Future


Plato Tsukalis made his preparations carefully during the final two weeks he remained in San Francisco. Closing up the details of a long residency was clearly not something that could be accomplished responsibly without lead times, notice periods, the other obeisances to a civilized life.

It was necessary, of course, to call Sheila and tell her it was over. At fifty-two and never married, Plato was inured to this process, knew intimately its stages, progression and end point. Indeed, he made the breakup an early item on his March 15 to-do list, the first time he could remember making a bullet point of something so emotionally intimate; but the distractions which would ensue after he told her needed time to resolve so the more pressing items could be attended to with a focussed attention. This proved to be a wise course of action. He was, frankly, unprepared for the furor of her response. In the previous twelve breakups over the preceding decade, he had encountered all manner of reaction, from outrage to weepy collapse. But the vitriol, importuning, blackmail, threats and aggression which Sheila brought to the process was altogether something new.

Plato, always logical, considered the distinctions between this breakup and the prior episodes, and chalked up the difference to chronology. It was always the first place to look, when you think about it. The chief difference between our reactions to predictable events at any point in our lives relates to the passage of time, which is only to say that inevitably anything that happens now occurs at a later point in life than something which happened then. Thus, we bring to our analysis the life lessons acquired in the interim between events, and also our increasing suspicion that things of this kind don’t matter much because eventually we’ll reach the point where nothing can happen anymore. This, at least, was Plato’s sense of the inevitable.

He essayed this explanation to Sheila in the small kitchen of her two bedroom Russian Hill apartment. He was leaning against her Corian® counter top, his left palm resting on the attractively beveled edge, while he sipped a Bourbon and soda. The drink was a good idea but the condescension was disastrous.

“You think you can fucking leave me now, after more than a year! You fucking bastard! I’m forty-seven years old! You think you can just throw me off and walk out of here so you can continue your ‘life adventure,’ you fucking creep! Why didn’t I see this about you? You can’t stick to anything, you fucking jerk! You asshole, you motherfucking asshole!”

She took her own drink and threw it violently against the cabinet door just behind Plato. The cabinet door, unfortunately, was also made of glass, and shards fell loudly onto the virtually indestructible Corian® surface, leaving it unmarked but Plato shaken, as he jumped away from the counter to avoid laceration. He set his drink down and headed for the front door. Sheila slumped, head in hands and sobbing, against the Corian® on her side of the galley kitchen, the key components of which were arranged in the classic triangle pattern, the range to the right of the shattered glass cabinets, the refrigerator on Sheila’s side, and the sink to the left of the spot just vacated by Plato. He thought with a moment’s regret that he would miss this ordered habitat as he gripped the door handle for perhaps the last time.

He was very wrong about its being the last time, however, as he needed the entire two weeks of the latter part of March for negotiations, damage control, feigned capitulation and other extrication devices in order to make the separation stick. This complicated, of course, the other more quotidian processes of terminating the lease on his own Telegraph Hill apartment, quitting his job at City Hall, placing his furniture in storage, and informing those few people who needed to know that he would be gone for “an extended period.” He wanted to delay disconnecting his telephone, of course, until the very last since it was essential to accomplishing many of the items on his to-do list, but leaving the line intact entailed a serious jeopardy. The same day he walked out of Sheila’s apartment for what was not the ultimate, nor the penultimate, nor even very far down the list of last times, she began calling, frequently, at any hour, in many moods, on different tacks and at wildly varying volumes. It made Plato rethink the wisdom of relying so heavily on the Internet for introductions.

She could be cajoling: “Plato,” she might murmur into the phone at three am, as if operating on heavy doses of unprescribed prescription drugs, acquired from a spam-dealer with access to high quality shit, “I know you’re confused right now. It’s a confusing time of life for both of us, we’re afraid because we’ve been hurt before and we don’t know who to trust. We can’t walk away from every challenge, Plato.”

She could be threatening: “Plato,” she would start, more often in the business-like hours of late morning, “I don’t know if you know what ‘living hell’ actually means, but I can make your life one. You know that? You give me this bullshit about a fucking ‘extended period of absence,’ like I don’t know we both know you’re talking about a woman, a much younger woman of course, you fucking creep, and like I’m not going to find out who she is, you fucking moron, like you could actually get away with this. Give me a fucking break, Plato. Who the fuck you think you’re dealing with?”

Plato was increasingly unsure about the answer to that last one. From the language, maybe a former long-haul truck driver or steel plant foreman. She called him at work many times during those two weeks. The City Hall operator would put the call through to his department in Legal Filing, where Plato had worked for seven years. He was a valued employee in the Civil Division as the only clerk whose first language was English. Any question from a fast-talking lawyer was handed off to him by the stoic Mandarin- or Spanish-speaking junior clerks, who had particular trouble following the rapid fire cadence of transplanted Manhattanites who impatiently demanded answers about filing fees, numbers of copies, format, et cetera.

“Lemme gi’ you Misser Tsukalis,” Plato would hear Mae Wan Huang say. With averted eyes, Mae Wan would murmur that Plato had a call on line one. Plato and Mae had dated desultorily for awhile about six years ago, before Plato gave up on co-employees and focussed on dating services, the immediate precursor to the Internet.

“Who?!” Plato would hear through Mae’s phone just before Mae hung up.

“Choo-kalis,” Plato would say calmly, picking up the phone, informing the caller that clerks could not give legal advice, then answering the question in elaborate legal detail. He adopted a collegial tone when answering questions from lawyers about format, copies, even legal strategy. Plato had two years of night law school behind him and he understood the basic concepts of contract and tort law, had read thousands of legal briefs, complaints, petitions and the rest of the Dickensian costly nonsense of the lawyer’s trade, all during the many slow hours in a filing clerk’s life. The rushes were in the early morning, when the doors first opened, and around four fifteen, just before closing, when the procrastinating legal profession scrambled to avoid missing deadlines and malpractice suits. Over the course of seven years, Plato had acquired a considerable fund of practical understanding, based as it was on a vantage point from which he could follow the natural history of lawsuits from thundering advocacy in the early filings to meek, quiet, disinterested settlement at the bitter end.

“A Miz Adams on line four,” the City Hall operator would say disapprovingly, and Plato would take a deep breath, check to see if Mae Wan was, uncharacteristically, distracted with work, take a deep breath, and pick up the phone.

Before he could say anything:

“No extended absence yet, huh Plato? Still on the job, still slinking around behind my back, still lying and cheating with someone new, huh? What happens when she finds out you got a few loose ends you haven’t cleaned up yet, huh Plate-brain? What then?”

Plato had taken the precaution of placing the receiver on the ear farthest from Mae Wan, who sat about six feet away behind her gray metal desk, but the only effect of this was to involve his head as an amplifying gourd for the Volume Ten recriminations coming through loud and clear. Mae Wan looked up and gave just the slightest inscrutable smile.

“For a filing like that, I’d recommend coming in by four, I could be there to meet you. Here, to meet you. Or closer to five-thirty.”

“You fucking be here then or tomorrow it’s all day long, sucker, you read me?”

“Sure, Mr. Slamgold, that’s when it will be.”

Mae Wan smiled a little more obviously as she said, “How can anyone file anything at five-thirty, Plato? We close at four-thirty, you know.”

“It’s uh, it’s uh…what the fuck difference does it make what it is,” Plato mumbled.

Plato stopped by a Powell Street florist on his way to Sheila’s apartment and picked up a nosegay of iris and daffodil. He took the elevator up to her eighth floor apartment on Taylor Street and knocked on the heavy paneled door about five forty-five. It was a classy building. Sheila’s apartment was the residuum of a twelve-year marriage to a prominent San Francisco gynecologist, socialite, piano-and-photography amateur whom she had met while he was on the job, in 1988. Eventually, or so Dr. Mellerman said, the constant close-quarters inspection and manipulation of female anatomy dulled his sexual passion to the point where he could not bear to be around a woman in his off-hours. This pronouncement followed suspiciously close on the heels of a photography expedition to Thailand, Sheila noticed, so she wasn’t altogether surprised when Pad Nuan took up her conspicuous place in Dr. Mellerman’s life. She was young, lithe, black-haired and schooled in arts which allowed the man as much sexual satisfaction as he could possibly handle without coming anywhere near the female anatomy.

Sheila opened the door slightly and smiled coquettishly at Plato, then opened it widely to reveal the gleaming expanse of dark hardwood which led to the living room overlooking the Bay. It also revealed her short red dress, black high heels and tasty expanse of late-forties legs encased in subtle fishnet. If a higher duty had not been calling Plato so insistently, this would have been very hard to leave behind.

The view over the Bay took in the Bay Bridge and the Embarcadero skyline. Plato wondered again about the ability of women to take interior space and transform it into something so amazingly livable, so gleaming, balanced, efficient. He wondered at the subtleties of art, flowers, sideboards, sofa cushions, carpets, built-ins. Such a rich look, so far beyond the bricks-and-boards, Toulouse Lautrec poster motif he could not rise above. If only women were worth it, it would be so nice to live like this.

“A drink?” Sheila asked.

“Yes, Scotch, in a glass, a lot of it, no ice.”

She walked to the sideboard and poured a hefty slug into a Waterford tumbler, brought it to him.

“Sheila, you have to stop calling me at work.”

“You have to come to your senses, Plato. I have no intention of going quietly into that good night. And anyway, I don’t think this is really in your best interests either. What do you hope to accomplish?”

“I’m on the verge of taking you into my confidence, Sheila, if that’s what’s necessary. Something has come up that requires me to leave, for an extended period, as I’ve said. I need you to trust me. It does not really involve leaving you, per se. If you see what I’m trying to get at.”

She smiled noncommitally at him, sat in an upholstered armchair and crossed those long legs, revealing another six inches of voluminous thigh, more of the black lattice-work of the stockings, presumably going all the way up there, Plato realized.

“I wonder if you have any idea what you’re trying to get at.”

“I’m willing to return here after my mission is accomplished and to resume with you. I’m not averse to that.”

“You’re such a romantic fool, Plato. To think you’re not averse to resuming with me.”

He was a little thrown by the controlled intensity of her approach today, so unlike the glass-smashing encounter a week ago. He supposed this was the way it was with hysterics; you never saw the same spin two pitches in a row.

“I simply can’t go any further right now with an explanation. That has to be final, for your sake and mine. I recognize, however, that flitting from woman to woman may be no better an approach than remaining with one woman and working things through, more satisfying in some ways, and the strength of your feeling encourages me to think we could have the kind of commitment necessary to endure. Plus, ever since reading your profile on the Net, I’ve thought we might have that ‘soul mate’ quality that can be so elusive, so once-in-a-lifetime, if you know what I mean.”

She looked away, and the light of the equinoctial sunset burnished her well-formed profile. A handsome woman, Plato thought. He probably did underestimate her.

“I wonder if you mean that.”

“Just this once, indulge yourself in a little trust.”

“All right, Plato, I’ll do that. But for the health of your soul, you better not be bullshitting me.”

He rose and extended his hand to her, pulled her to her feet. He caught a glimpse of a crimson pressure oval beneath the fishnet of her right thigh as she uncrossed her legs. He loved details like that, the responsiveness of flesh to touch, how alive it all was. He took her in his arms, spoke softly in her ear.

“This is vital to me. Believe me, I knew nothing of this six months ago, and I’ve never misled you.”

“Don’t you want to stay?” she whispered. “Don’t you wonder where I might be going later, all dressed up like this?”

“I do, Sheila, but I’ve got to face there will be many nights like that in the coming months, and I’ve got to steel myself, beginning now. Please wait for me. I hope to be worth it.”