Chapter 25: Just-So Stories (Honest Adolph, Volume III)

Presidential nominations, generally speaking, go to those with the biggest mouth, and not the greatest intellect or grandest patriotism.

But how far this may be a universal principle is something which, perhaps, remains to be seen.

Either way, our friend Adolph has quite a formidable task here. Let us examine in more detail his two antagonists: Marcus Seamus Riddle and Benny Pilder.

Or as it is written, in the graduate thesis of Deborah herself…

***

Evolutionary scientists say that the human brain contains many marks of the muddy clay from which the human spirit first began to soar.

[COMMENT: THIS HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY]

So, also in the womb, where are all ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ do we marvellously recapitulate our endless journey.

[WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? MORE CLARITY REQUIRED]

Every human individual however, no doubt, carries a different soul within him.

[PERHAPS YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE WRITING A THEOLOGY OR METAPHYSICS ESSAY. I REALLY EXPECT HIGHER STANDARDS OF OUR STUDENTS, AND THAT INCLUDES THE NON-SCHOLARSHIP ONES AS WELL]

If metempsychosis is deemed psychosis, and reincarnation a mere caste-chauvinist metaphysical delusion, and rebirth exceedingly bad taste (and karma!), this is not by any means to no purpose?

[THIS IS A COMPLETE WORD SALAD]

Some there are who have the reptile brain. Cool, calm, clinical precise, they understand very well the importance of analysis and discrimination…

[DISCRIMINATION? SERIOUSLY?!!!!!!!!!!]

But they remain woefully unable to penetrate to the essence of things.

[ESSENTIALISM?]

They discern well enough to be wary of indiscriminate inclusion and tolerance…

[THIS KIND OF BINARY LOGIC IS EXTRAORDINARILY PROBLEMATIC. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN EXCLUDED? HAS ANYONE EVER BEEN INTOLERATION TO YOU? JUST BECAUSE WE CAN’T TOLERATE EVERYONE, DO YOU HONESTLY THINK WE HAVE TO BE COMPLETE INTOLERANT AND EXCLUSIONARY INSTEAD? YOUR PRIVILEGE IS SHOWING]

But they are not capable of buttressing their arguments on strong foundations; all is surface, nothing is depth.

[MEANINGLESS NONSENSE]

They do not dare to create a true ‘totalising synthesis…’

[WHY YES… THERE IS A REASON FOR THAT!]

Because their metaphysical cowardice will not permit them to do so.

[POINTLESS AD HOMINEM THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ARGUMENT]

On the other hand, there are those who fly with the birds of the air.

[… WHAT?!]

They soar and fall with the breeze; they dare Heaven’s wrath to pulling together what once was sundered.

[WHAT ON EARTH COULD THIS POSSIBLY MEAN?]

They create a Brave New World, but they always risk having no-one and nothing in it, like a certain ‘Città Ideale’ painting of a green Italian hill-tribe far away.

[????????]

I will not name the painter here…

[WHY NOT?]

But that, in itself, is not by any means without significance.

[I BEG TO DIFFER].

The endless Promethean, Faustian desire to plunge the depths of Heaven and soar to the heights of the inner world…

[DIDN’T YOU MEAN THE HEIGHTS OF HEAVEN AND THE DEPTHS OF THE INNER WORLD?]

Leaves them naked and alone, when the Day of Severance finally arrives.

[WERE YOU DRUNK WHEN YOU WROTE THIS?]

And then, of course, we have the Third Adam. The coming generation of liberty, who are by no means without a toehold in Jerusalem and a humble washbowl-censer in Athens…

[OH, STOP! STOP! THERE IS NO POINT READING ANY FURTHER. WE HAVE GIVEN YOU AMPLE CHANCES TO WRITE SOMETHING MORE CONSTRUCTIVE, AND EVERY SINGLE TIME, YOU STUBBORNLY PERSIST IN CHURNING OUT MEANINGLESS METAPHYSICAL BOILERPLATE. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CASE FOR EVEN PROVIDING A BOTTOM GRADE FOR THIS. YOU HAVE HAD MORE THAN ENOUGH CHANCES. COME TO MY OFFICE ASAP, BECAUSE BY THIS POINT, I CANNOT SEE ANY PROSPECT OF YOUR PASSING THIS DEGREE. IT IS A DAMNED SHAME, ALL THE SAME, DEBORAH. YOUR BEST WORK YOU DEEMED YOUR WORST, AND YOUR WORST WORK YOU HAVE OBSTINATELY DEEMED YOUR BEST. THIS IS A POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY CLASS, AND NOT A CLASS FOR PSYCHEDELIC POETRY. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, (NOTE THE EMPHASIS!) ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN THIS ESSAY THAT REMOTELY RESEMBLES SERIOUS PHILOSOPHY; POLITICAL OR OTHERWISE. IT IS A PITY, IN A WAY, BECAUSE WE DO INVEST A GREAT DEAL OF LOVE, OF TIME AND CARE AND MONEY AND OTHER SCARCE RESOURCES IN OUR STUDENTS; EVEN FOR THOSE WHO ARE PROBLEMATIC ALLIES, AND WHOSE COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE IS QUESTIONABLE AT BEST.

BUT TO BE FRANK, I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO SUMMON ANY COMPASSION FOR YOU, AS YOUR CONSTANT INTELLECTUALISM AND DETACHED ‘OBJECTIVITY,’ QUITE FRANKLY, HAS BEEN WEARING. WE DID WARN YOU AT THE START THAT YOU WERE NOT HERE TO ‘SEEK TRUTH AT THE END OF ENQUIRY,’ BUT RATHER TO ‘MAKE TRUTH BY WAY OF ENQUIRY.’ ULTIMATELY, THE PAST FEW YEARS HERE HAVE BEEN WASTED. LET ME BE CLEAR: WITHOUT PASSING THIS THESIS, YOU ARE UNABLE TO PASS YOUR DEGREE. THIS WAS ONLY TO BE EXPECTED, GIVEN PAST FORM; BUT THEN AGAIN, JUST AS EVERY DEATH IS A TRAGEDY (I AM QUITE SURE YOU REMEMBER THE MICRAOGGRESSIONS AGAINS THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD FROM LAST JANUARY), SO ALSO IS EVERY FAILURE A TRAGEDY.

DO SPEAK WITH ME SOON! BUT IN THE MEANTIME, I’M AFRAID THIS IS A NO FROM ME. NONETHELESS, THE PAST FEW YEARS MAY WELL END UP A LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR YOU…]

***

The thesis, then was a monumental failure.

Some would say, of course, that Deborah was the same!

Others, however (and perhaps you, dear reader, are not entirely out of sympathy with this passionate and remarkable woman) are more charitable.

Charity, however, begins at home; and thus we will say no more, except to remark that as we return to the second cradle of liberty, we are not unmindful that a beast of Babylon may yet arise and spiritless, slump towards Bethlehem, so that predator and prey may be alike; even as their infernal father below is one…

And many.

***

Marcus Seamus Riddle, the establishment favourite, and by some distance the book maker’s favourite, gently primed his reptile brain. He had a little more life about him than Dickie Klindel; enough to make him a very favourable candidate for election, but not enough to make him anything like a danger to the establishment.

“Candidate Riddle: many have said you are the first candidate in many years who offers ‘a hope of change,’ as the Washington Post said. Would you like to elaborate a little on what change you want to bring to America?’

Riddle’s lips twitched imperceptibly. Then he began to speak. This voice was dull, lifeless and inanimate; but there was a certain rigour or severity in it that some more superficial and naïve souls, blinded by meaningless and futile political partisanship, might have taken for ‘seriousness.’ Indeed, the polling up to now suggested that this runaway leader might indeed have been taken for a true ‘moderate centrist,’ against the superficial and flippant counterfeit radicalism of Benny Pilder, and the quaintly archaic (some would say!) Rooseveltian nostalgia of Adolph Adams.

Riddle spoke these words:

“I don’t want to have a one-sided focus on change. Never mind hard change or soft change; what we all want and need is ‘smart change.’”

This was not half as intelligent or clever as Riddle seemed to think; for one thing, it was something that needed a little bit of elaboration. But such a cunning and shrewd soulless-soul as Marcus Seamus Riddle was rather too clever to permit anyone to pin him down on what his high-minded cleverness really meant.

In the past, a good journalist would have probed him a little. And more: they would have very much enjoyed roasting his plums under the blazing inferno of public scrutiny. But in a (not so) subtle gesture, the interviewer merely said:

‘Well, that’s an original take, for sure. Plenty of food for thought.’

If the late and (sad to say) not so much-lamented Otis Spengler had spoken such words, they would undoubtedly have had ironic undercurrents.

But by now, it seemed the last stragglers had gone.

Otis was buried in an unmarked grave, unmourned by K’Simah, and unmourned by Cassie; although the latter was merely ignorant of the death of the man she had secretly dreamed would one day become her husband, while the former was too embittered and resentful to so much as shovel a clod of earth or scatter a handful of dust and ashes, in memory of his little smart-arse, upstart little brother.

As for Cassie herself, she and Su Chun were currently being savagely prostituted out by pimps. And her body was already riddled, not so much by seven devils of disease, as seventy times seven. Some may be tempted here, to mourn for her as a pure virgin-whore, like the maiden of Crime and Punishment; but permit me to remind the reader, that Cassie would spit on your pity.

Whether that entirely absolves you or I of the ancient, moribund law of true and authentic compassion, may perhaps be debated.

But what is entirely uncontroversial is that Cassie would quite happily have broken your jaw or mine, should we ever have uttered a single heartbeat of prayer for her eternal felicity, or for her comfort in the present hard and bitter world.

And speaking of a lack of controversy: the interviewer added another softball question about something some worthless Canadian career politician had said, and Riddle gave a non-answer that every bit as evasive and mediocre as the one discussed above. We shall not insult the eyes and ears of our readers by quoting it verbatim.

Moving on, the first truly probing question was for Benny Pilder.

‘Candidate Pilder: The Baltimore Sentinel has recently posted a photo of you in a Star Wars Mock-Up, trying to save the world from what some people say is a mediocre establishment consensus. Do you have a comment on this picture? What is your message to those who may be a little unsure that a first Scientologist president is what America really needs right now?’

A previous Scientologist Democratic nomination candidate had already crashed and burned a few years ago, not least because his butthurt and over-sensitive temperament had led him to indulge himself in wildly intemperate screaming matches with others, when his nonsense ideology was ridiculed. Benny Pilder, of course, was too clever to let this happen. He had no real commitment to Scientology, and he had merely adopted the mantle of Scientology in order to gain a sympathy vote as an oppressed minority.

Well, not ‘merely.’

He actually enjoyed manipulating people, and this was a deeply ingrained personality trait from God only knows how long ago.

He now had the opportunity to subtly poke fun at his adopted ‘religion,’ while also benefiting from the counterfeit ‘subaltern’ or ‘minority’ status it gave him. The establishment candidate and bookmaker’s favourite, Marcus Seamus Riddle, had all things needful, including a corrupt Democratic National Convention that were rumoured to be planning to rig the vote…

Except for just one thing.

He didn’t have a ‘token minority’ schtick! This led some rather shrewder commentators to speculate that Pilder might well steal the nomination from Riddle. However, this was very far from being the received wisdom. The establishment media were currently focused on helping Riddle, with wall to wall favourable coverage. However, they were already fastening their beady eyes on Pilder and Adams, to see which one would require the most serious hatchet job.

Adams was still considered an old-fashioned liberal whose ideas and agendas had almost nothing in common with the rest of the party, apart from his love for unions, support for welfare and desire to reform the healthcare system. It was this, of course, that enabled the normally idealistic Saul Friedman (some would say rigid) to remain on good terms with Adams. Friedman occasionally baited Adams, saying ‘We are friends for Athens, but enemies for Wall Street!’

But even Adams was less explicitly hostile towards Wall Street than Pilder. Pilder had plenty of disrespectful rhetoric about greedy bankers and CEOs, but he did not have any constructive suggestions. Adams, by fairly obvious contrast, was more temperate, and was looking for some modest fixes that would help to square the circle of free markets and social welfare, without the cut-throat Darwinism of Friedman and the teenage radicalism of Pilder.

And yet, he also did not desire to take a purely tokenistic and hypocritical approach to economic reform, as Riddle did. He was interested in modest reforms, as well as a few grander ideas that were radical enough in their way, but that were also grounded, as Adams best knew how, in serious economics.

Despite Friedman’s serious misgivings about endorsing his friend, he knew the cause of liberty had no serious allies now at all, and he supported Adams more out of a desire for damage limitation, than for any other reason. The dispassionate old libertarian objectivist had no distorting sentimental bias in favour of Adams, and he most certainly had no love for the ‘socialism-lite’ du jour as he sneeringly called it.

However he did believe that, at least outside of the economic field, Adams was the only person with a remotely serious commitment to individual liberty. Friedman was terrified that his old friend’s NRA endorsement might be enough in itself to sink his entire campaign. He knew that the more Adam rose in the polls, the more vulnerable he would be to 24/7 scrutiny of his views on the Second Amendment; not to mention the very First one, and the Fourth as well.

Pilder had no such vulnerabilities; indeed, his religious minority status was now going to help him win! Or so, at least was his desire. Pilder humorously repeated the entire question from memory:

‘Candidate Pilder: The Baltimore Sentinel has recently posted a photo of you in a Star Wars Mock-Up, trying to save the world from what some people say is a mediocre establishment consensus. Do you have a comment on this picture? What is your message to those who may be a little unsure that a first Scientologist president is what America really needs right now.”

Pilder gobbled up the bait with evident glee.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I think Mr Riddle must be from another planet if he thinks the American people will stand for his mediocre, technocratic centrism!”

This was not a particularly clever joke; but it did raise a giggle or two in the audience.

Riddle frowned, as he realised that Pilder was indeed in deadly earnest about weaponising his own space-age ‘minority privilege’ against him.

“I don’t know if this guy is waiting to get beamed up and taken up to Planet Centrist; but in the meantime, you can all have a close encounter with radical social justice! I can’t promise you you’ll all be able to join the Mothership all at once; but what I can promise you is that I’m going to make America even more of a tolerant, diverse, inclusive society that it’s ever been! We’re going to have so much tolerance, you’ll just be sick of tolerance!’

At these meaningless buzzwords, some of the initially sceptical members of the audience began to whoop with joy.

‘American is not a tolerant country…’ he affirmed with a tactical pause.

Sighs of disappointment all round.

‘America is tolerance!

We are not just founded on diversity.

We are diversity!

We don’t merely tolerate diversity…

We celebrate it!

We don’t practice inclusion…

We are inclusion!

In fact, nobody in the world does tolerance, diversity and inclusion better than America!’

By now, the audience were practically screaming with joy.

‘Diversity isn’t just our strength. Or even our greatest strength! It is US, it is you, and me, and everyone else here! We celebrate all diversity! No exceptions! No excuses! Our diversity, our whole diversity, and nothing but diversity!’

The whoops became deafening.

‘We celebrate sexual diversity!’

(Deborah knew all about the joys of sexually diverse behaviour, as we have earlier disclosed).

‘We celebrate religious diversity!’

(The Amber Hornet bombing was left conveniently unmentioned).

‘We celebrate neurodiversity!’

(Presumably including narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths; of whom there were more than a few in the Democrats and Republicans alike).

‘Without diversity, there is no hope of moving forward as a nation! Let’s not listen to Mr Adams here, when he spouts this meaningless, conservative crap about ‘traditional toleration.’ Toleration merely means putting up with people! Have you ever had anyone merely putting up with you?…’

Here, Pilder paused for effect.

The audience went absolutely insane, greedily gobbling up the bate as a starving, rabid hound might ruthlessly devour a pork chop.

‘Have any of you ever been excluded, my friends?’ although Pilder was clearly no friend, in any meaningful sense, of the audience.

‘And this Adams wants you to believe that anything less than absolute, unreserved celebration of diversity and a relentless, perpetual commitment to tolerance, inclusion and choice will ever satisfy the American people?’

The audience guffawed so loud, the interviewer had to call for order.

Once the laughter died down, Pilder paused and smirked, saying drily:

‘What on Earth was he thinking, not thinking about that?’

Adams blushed a little; from anger, as much as from embarrassment. He knew that Pilder was playing shallow word games. On a thousand and one occasions, he had stated soberly, dispassionately and objective, that one could never simply be for or against differences, absent of context.

He consistently refused to use inflammatory language too. Some years ago, Saul Friedman had said that subjectivism and moral relativism, whether it be tolerance, diversity, inclusion or choice, was the ‘mere opposite of Nazism and Islamic terrorism.’ Between myriad dishonest accusations of moral equivalence, inciting hatred against Muslims, breaching Godwin’s Law, peddling racism, showing himself up as a true white supremacist/Nazi/Zionazi/straight rich white guy/straight rich Jew guy/crypto-neocon (delete as appropriate), and the quite frankly bizarre assertion that anything that was the opposite of Nazism somehow just has to be a good thing, (by definition!), Saul was so distressed by the resounding furore that he went into hiding for a whole week.

This, of course, did not help his cause. And it was only the gentle coaxing of Deborah, and the promise of a slap-up meal at Big Xian’s and a whole bottle of luxury baijiu spirits, that could ever have led him to show his face in public again.

Adams remembered this incident with pain, and swore in his heart that no matter what the provocation, he would keep his cool, and not let his own feelings of hurt, betrayal and pain allow him to speak immoderately. His old Republican friend and sometime enemy had always been something of a loose cannon, and this had always cost him greatly. Adams was determined to light his candle from the furnace, while at the same time shielding it gently with this hand. He remembered the strength of Leonard Cohen, George Solti, Joan Baez, Herbert Klemperer, and other bygone minstrels who had shown the greatest of strength, with the greatest modesty, humility and reserve. From the outside, you would not know how much he was struggling; but he was determined to make this sacrifice, for the sake of the people and the values he loved so well.

Another sacrifice, of course, was listening to Pilder babbling on and on and on, with his meaningless word salad of imbecilic feelwords.

The interviewer, however, was keen to move on, as they had unintentionally assisted Pilder with their ambush. Instead of humiliating Pilder, and baiting him into anger, they had merely succeeded in granting him a small coup. Riddle managed to keep his cool, but he was deeply unhappy about how Pilder had managed to turn ridiculous assassination question into a huge victory. Pilder’s coup now meant Riddle himself had to work hard to recover lost ground. Perhaps, instead of fastening his wrinkled, grizzled jaws on the young, agile and athletic heels of Benny Pilder, he could gang up on Adolph Adams first, and then, when Riddle and Pilder had finally had seen off this ridiculous joke candidate, he could use whatever confidence boost he had gained from this, to turn his turrets on Pilder.

The interviewer hurled a second journalistic grenade; the first one had not succeeded in weakening Pilder. So, she hoped the second one would at least wipe out Adams entirely.

‘Candidate Adams. You are the only Democratic Party candidate to be endorsed by the controversial gun lobby, the National Rifle Association. You are also one of only two candidates from any party, to get a premium grade endorsement.’

Adams tutted inwardly, because he knew a ‘premium grade endorsement’ was a meaningless rhetorical conceit that many people in the media were using. Actually, the difference between the percentage rating he had been given, and those of his three nearest competitors, ranged between 1% and 13%. Still, he knew he had to keep his cool! ‘And so help me, Thomas Paine,’ he wryly prayed. He had no idea if Thomas Paine still existed in some heavenly sphere, but he hoped to draw some strength, nonetheless, from the radical writer of the Age of Reason.’

‘So, Candidate John Adams…’

The audience burst into laughter. Adams clenched his fist, because he knew full well this was a deliberate error, that was intended to make him seem quaint and old fashioned.

‘I beg your pardon! Adolph Adams…’

The interviewer sounded so twee and ridiculous, as she coyly drew his name out, long and lovingly, that Adams could barely contain himself. This, if anything, was an even worse insult than likening to the discredited perpetrator of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

‘Do you think it is appropriate that a Democratic candidate should be endorsed by the NRA?’

This is exactly what Adams had expected her to say; but his jaw still dropped open, although he quickly shut it, in order to avoid looking foolish. The very idea that this was considered anything like an appropriate question to ask him was utterly mindblowing.

And one last gratuitous sucker punch…

‘And do you also agree with Senator Marcus Charleston Bubble, who also gained a premium grade NRA endorsement, that those who advocate gun control are a ‘disorderly mob of street thugs, stupid kids, sexually frustrated undergraduates, Communists and Social Justice freaks?’

Adams was so distressed at the manifest bad faith of his interrogator that he could not even think clearly, in order to answer.

An occasional titter broke out.

Adams drew in a short, shallow breath and simply uttered one word.

‘No.’

He knew this was not a very satisfactory answer, but he did not feel it deserved anything more than that. Then again, beginning to panic, he wondered whether he had made a serious error, by placing his own pride above American values, and the future of his country. However, it was too late to add more detail, as he saw the smirking ‘interviewer’ was about to speak again.

‘So why are you here then?’ she laughed.

Adams felt like he had been punched with a brick.

‘Because I am not a Republican,’ he replied sullenly, completely wrongfooted by the question.

Of course, the interviewer knew damn well that Adams meant ‘No, I do not agree with Bubble,’ rather than, ‘No, it is not appropriate for me to be endorsed by the NRA.’ But she thought it would be funny to pretend to misunderstand him.

‘So… You don’t believe it is appropriate for a Democrat to be endorsed by the NRA,’ Pilder burst out, to inevitable peals of laughter.

Adams wished the ground could swallow him up.

‘On the other hand, and get this… The guy is not a Republican either! Well, that’s a start, I guess!’

Every single whoop of ridicule stoked a thousand flames of humiliation and self-abasement in Adams’ cheeks.

The interviewer should have intervened at this point; just for form’s sake, she opened her lips twice and pretended she was about to intervene, but that she was not able to do so, because of the hideous orgy of taunting and teasing.

‘Tell me, though, Honest Abe… Oh do excuse me, Honest Adolph! If you’re not a Republican, then why do you oppose common sense gun laws to protect our citizens.’

Adams just about managed to stammer out: ‘I… I don’t.

‘This man changes with the wind!’ Riddle sneered, grunting in displeasure as the interviewer waved her hand to silence him.

Pilder took the bait and said, ‘Well, indeed he does! So, he’s opposed to racism, but he also supports an isolationist foreign policy.

‘He’s opposed to war, but he supports hate speech on our campuses, which nowadays, we all understand to be merely a form of violence.

‘He opposes misogyny, but he also opposes identity politics.

‘He opposes religious hatred, but he insists on making racist and Islamophobic criticisms of the Islamic Republic, and warns us not to follow in ‘their’ footsteps, whoever ‘they’ is.

‘He says he wants better distribution of wealth, but he doesn’t accept affirmative action.

‘He opposes homophobia, but also says collective interests and group rights undermine individualism.

‘As though individualism, properly understood, were anything other than diversity by another name.

‘As though pedantic word games and semantics about ‘classical toleration’ vs ‘tolerance,’ or ‘traditional pluralism versus diversity,’ or ‘individual liberty versus choice,’ were anything other than a meaningless strategy to mask his self-evident Republican sympathies!

‘So….

‘Tell me, Mr Adams: do you have a single consistent and coherent thought at all?’

Adams was fit to weep at the self-evident bad faith of this critics. He wanted to go home and bury his head in his pillow.

But he knew he couldn’t turn back.

Not now.

Not now, while there was still hope.

Adams, don’t turn back!

‘Yeah, and do you think maybe you’re in the wrong party too?’ the deeply uncharismastic Riddle muttered.

He glowered in displeasure, as he realised that neither the audience nor the interviewer seemed to appreciate his clumsy interventions. Both he and Adams were extraordinarily upset by the clownish behaviour of the interviewer, who was soon to lose her job on some specious pretext. It seems that in this nomination debate, the hosting journalist had committed the cardinal error of prizing mere entertainment value over the good of the party.

Naively enough, she had merely identified Adams as an enemy of the party establishment; but she had failed to understand that for the time being, the smarter strategy would have been to weaken the second strongest candidate, Benny Pilder. The problem was not so much that she was biased, but that she was not biased in the right way. It would have been far more helpful to Ruby Chandra De Montevideo and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment, if the interviewer had tried to weaken Pilder, rather than hammering down on low-hanging fruit like Adams.

Of course, she did not yet realise her error.

‘The wrong party? Well, we can’t say that now, can we?’ she laughed.

It was an ambiguous laugh, that could just as much be read as a sycophantic gift to Pilder, as a rebuke of the insurgent fake populist.

‘I am not in the wrong party,’ Adams said.

Pilder could have said more, and a less skilled political tactician, no doubt, would have naively decided to stick the knife in. But a master manipulator and conniver like Pilder was well able to intuitively grasp the most miniscule strategic subtleties of the moment. Instead of doing the obvious thing, and buffeting Adams with a few more jokes and jibes, he merely paused theatrically and dropped his hands, like some kind of flamboyant clown from an opera buffa.

This ironically mournful silence, accompanied with its powerful gestures of despair and ridicule, was far more effective in inciting the audience to laughter than anything a less intelligent candidate could have said. By now, the roars of ridicule were so loud, that you could have been forgiven for thinking the riot police were just about to arrive at the scene of this hideous tabloid massacre.

***

Deborah ran into the street, tears streaming down her face like rain.

All of a sudden, she paused by the graveyard.

She saw two unmarked graves.

For some reasons, Otis Spengler’s notorious interview with Morton Megaraparthenon sprung to mind.

Her mind was then drawn to the terrible poverty in this society.

Why this should be, she had no idea.

She remembered the day Saul had come to her, in evident distress, saying that a bum had been found dead under the bridge. Saddened to hear this, she asked if they knew who he was. Saul, apparently deeply traumatised by finding the body, was incapable of saying anything more, other than babbling on and on about the purple heart medal he was clutching as he died.

Deborah wondered where Otis and the homeless guy were today.

This couldn’t just be the end, could it?

The sky above rattled and rumbled.

A thunderstorm was on the way.

Deborah plunged into the nearest building she could find.

Allan Thatcher was about to throw her out, and Sally knew it. Stealing the march on Allan, she anxiously gestured to a distant corner where Allan couldn’t see here; this should minimise the risk of trouble.

Deborah was grateful to have a roof over her head at last.

‘Sally! This is the bitch that used to hang around with that Jew comedian, Two Shekel Saul?’

Pushed to breaking point after yet another day of unrewarding work, Sally finally lost all patience with her brother’s hatred and bitterness.

‘Shut the fuck up, Allan!’ she screamed.

Allan was shocked. Bullying, as they say, is often a sign of weakness; and Allan was genuinely disturbed to see Sally screaming at the top of her voice.

‘Bitch… bitch!’ he finally managed to stammer out.

‘Allan!’ she screamed. ‘You have achieved nothing in your life. Don’t let me ever, ever, ever let me hear this utter, sanctified horseshit about how everything bad in your life is a conspiracy by other people. Saul Friedman was very good to our Jim…”

“Bitch! Shut the fuck up!”

“No, you shut the fuck up, Allan…”

“I told you not to let that filthy, disgusting, sub-human, shitty little Zioroach anywhere near our…”

Sally picked up a bottle and brandished it at Allan. She wasn’t going to hit him, of course; but she was utterly in despair not only about how her brother continued to spread his continual hatemongering and bigotry, but also at how he insisted in speaking in malicious and conspiratorial terms about the strange old man who had offered such comfort to her and Jim, in the midst of their grinding poverty, despair, and fears for the future.

Allan picked a kettle of boiling water and flung it over Sally. Deborah leapt up in terror as Sally howled in agony. Deborah ran over to help, but cringed in terror as Allan drew his gun.

‘Everything good I’ve earned has been stolen by the government!’ he roared.

Deborah cringed, cowering in utter terror. Her hands trembled, as Allan closed his eyes and cocked the trigger.

Just then, Benny Turpin staggered in the door, somewhat the worse for drink.

“Ha ha! Duuuuuuuuuuuude!” the pathetic idler shrieked with laughter.

“Look at this shit, huuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh? Shoot a Democrat for Jesus!”

Allan turned around and pointed the gun at Benny.

Benny began to cry.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, don’t shoot, dude! Pleeeeeeeeease, dude! Don’t shoot! It was a fuckin’ joke! Jesus Christ, dude…” he bawled, quivering like a wreck.

But it was too late to cry.

Allan pumped Benny full of lead.

Despite the plaintive wails of Deborah, and Sally’s desperate begging, Allan finally turned the gun on himself.

As if it was impossible for anything to get any worse, Jim ran downstairs.

He stared horror-struck. Sally managed to limp over to Jim and press him gently to her chest.

Unlike her elder brother Allan, Jim was still alive.

But the last words he ever spoke were:

‘But why… But why?’

Gentle Jim was so traumatised, he never spoke again.

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