Saul had not yet heard about the terrible events from last night. He was planning to pay a visit to the Thatchers later in the day; for now, he was commiserating with Adams about his poor showing the previous night.
‘Do you think it is possible, Saul?’ Adolph said.
Saul nodded gently.
‘Do you think it is possible to win, against such manifestly bad faith argumentation?’
He switched the video on again.
‘See yer using a nice ethically sourced, socially just laptop again,’ Saul said, forcing something like a grin, however grim. ‘That from China? Or is it Myanmar this time? … Hm?’
Saul tailed off, embarrassingly, into silence; because it just didn’t seem to be the time for jokes right now.
He bit his lip like a true Stoic (or masochist?) as he watched the final words of Benny Pilder, who had held up surprisingly well against the tedious, manufactured establishment candidate.
“So… ‘humanitarian interventionism’ is fundamentally unjust, and serves the interests of arms lobbyists more than the people?”
“Ha! If this Honest Adolph is what passes for a man of charisma, well, you know we’ve got problems! I tell you one thing, Senator, if you ever become President, no-one, but no-one, will ever say President Adolph was some kind of, ya know, “a strong leader in a tight spot, who just did what he had to do!’
“Well, I guess not everybody in our party is the same, right? You’re anti-establishment? You’re nothing like it. You’re just a mediocre, opportunistic conformist who wants to keep brutal dictators in power! Well let me tell you something, sir. The international community will not bow to this… this ideological terrorism!”
And who is the international community?
“Well, it certainly isn’t you, that’s for sure.”
Yes. You’re right. It’s not me. We certainly agree.”
“Well, would you just listen to that! Talk about isolationism! Talk about cynical pacifism, and sheer naked, callous crypto-conservative brutality and propping up the status-quo! This guy has just pretty much admitted he doesn’t care just one little bit about the genocide being committed in the Caucasus!”
But that is not true.
“What about the fund, huh? What about the fund? Tell us, here are the people here. Tell us about the fund, Adams? What about the fund? The charity fund. How about it? A lot of politicians walked across the aisle, to contribute to the appeal fund. But one name was missing. Now I wonder who that might have been? And why?”
You… assume I didn’t contribute?
“Well, I don’t see your name on the list. I don’t suppose you’re one of those X number of mysterious ‘anonymous donors’ they mentioned, are you?”
If I were, I wouldn’t tell you.
“Oh, wouldn’t you? Well, sadly… something tells me that doesn’t quite ring true. Well, it just so appears that Mr Integrity here wants us to believe that he would contribute some kind of huge sum to the aid appeal for the Chechen genocide, and, get this, he’s just too good ol’ modest, plain-speaking lilywhite to tell us. Well, you really are something, aren’t you? We just aren’t worthy, are we?”
I try not to tell everyone everything I do…
“Oh, well. That sounds pretty secretive to me. Do you think we can trust someone like that to act transparently and accountably.”
That is for the American people to decide. I am here to earn their trust.
“Well, we’ll see how that one goes.”
Adams paused and switched it off.
“Hey… Hey hey hey, Adi boy!” Saul spluttered, laying down his pipe and begin to choke with long-deferred mirth.
“At least Golden Robot is out on his ass, huh? Heh heh heh!”
The ghost of a smile flickered around his lips.
“Quite a coup, yes. The centrist favourite, Marcus Seamus Riddle, appears to have been very much displeased by the unfavourable treatment he received. I must confess, I did not expect to be one of only two Democrats left in the running.”
Saul coughed, and coughed, and cough again.
“See… see this frickin’ Riddle asshole, Adoph. What a butthurt snowflake! Gets one little thing doesn’t go his way, and he goes back to his pathetic little ‘Riddle Crime Foundation.’”
Adams tutted, and not by any means insincerely. “We really don’t know for sure that it is a Crime Foundation.”
Saul burst into laughter, rocking up and down in his chair for sheer mirth. Adams was mildly annoyed by Saul’s apparently dismissive and flippant attitude; all the same, he knew that Saul’s peculiarities and quirks were fairly deeply rooted. And it would surely seem churlish to worry too much about this now.
“Adi, boy! Did you get dropped on the head?”
Adolph gently set his glass down and said:
“Now Saul, I know there is a lot of corruption in our profession. ‘The world’s oldest profession,’ as an old joke of yours runs; one we have enjoyed in the past, and shall no doubt have good occasion to amuse ourselves with again. And yet… And yet… this seven-letter word beginning with ‘P’ is not always quite as bad as it seems. After all, Saul; we are OK, aren’t we? We haven’t been selling out the country for the sake of filthy lucre, surely?”
He raised his eyebrow archly, because he knew Saul would find the joke amusing. Albeit, not because the joke was false, but because it was true. Saul and Adolph were both men of integrity; and it is not inconceivable, to those at least of a more conspiratorial mindset, that Adams and and Friedman had both been weighed down a little by their largely incorruptible character.
Saul cackled with glee. “You are just too fuckin’ funny, Adolph ‘Honest Adolph’ Adams,” using the sarcastic slur Pilder had used the night before. “These people are all balls deep in the pie. Why the hell would they set up the Riddle Fraud Foundation, unless he was trying to pay for play some rich cunts to give him a retirement he’ll never forget… Before he finally splits Hell wide open!”
Adolph raised his hands in dismay. “They are not ‘cunts,’ Saul. And wishing eternal damnation on anyone is a bit harsh, don’t you think?’”
“Thank God for Dead Communiiiiiiiiiiiists!” Saul began to sing.
Adolph’s face fell.
“Saul, dear friend, you really are rather harsh. This all does come across as a little cynical. Perhaps, for all you or I could possibly know, there is a better side to our good friend Mr Riddle, and he merely wishes to do some good in this world before…”
Saul had been laughing all the way through Adolph’s sarcastic thought experiment, until he finally realised, to his utmost horror, that Adolph was in deadly earnest.
“HOOOOOOOOOOORSE…. SHIT!” Saul roared, barely able to contain himself for rage. He couldn’t believe Adolph was willing to so much as remotely entertain the possibility that these appalling warmongers, sellouts and unpatriotic traitors had the slightest shred of good in them.
Saul knew there was absolutely no way he could let Adolph get away with this. Silently fuming, he tapped gently on his whiskey glass.
By now, Adolph knew well enough to let the storm pass.
Eventually, discerning the moment aright, he gently said:
“The one who has fallen short in one point of the law, as they say, is guilty of all.”
Saul spat in disgust.
“Christianity. Such a pile of crap. How do people even believe this shit.”
Adolph had long ago noticed that Saul was more or less respectful of religion, and even of Christianity, in his sober moments. But sometimes, when he was drunk, he used to rant and rave to a remarkable degree about what utter nonsense it all was. Adolph was always a little afraid that Saul’s unfiltered comments would reach the ears of the media. But Saul normally had enough self-control, such as it was, to rant in a more or less private context.
“Do they still want to kill us?”
Out of context, this comment would seem odd to most people.
But Adolph knew by ‘us,’ Saul meant his people.
“No… Most of them don’t. Christianity has changed.”
Saul laughed a dark, hollow laugh.
“It had to change, huh? Mustn’t really be up to snuff then, hm? Why’d they need to change their stupid, pathetic Kool-Aid death cult, if it was OK to start with? Sounds like it must have been complete horseshit to begin with. I tell ya, Adi boy, the only stupider bullshit ideology on the face of the earth is socialism.”
Trying to amuse Saul and lift him out of his strop, Adolph said:
“Look on the bright side. At least we are not Benny Pilder, hm?”
Saul cackled with glee.
He then began a long ramble about some ridiculous L Ron Hubbard anecdotes. Adams did not interrupt him until he had finished.
Finally, he said:
“Folly is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all think it is everyone else who is foolish, don’t we?”
Saul lay back in his chair at last, and whispered, ‘Shades of Zhuangzi.’
Adolph didn’t know who or what Zhuangzi was, but for some inexplicable reason, his mind was drawn to dear Big Xian, who had suffered such a horrible fate, when all those wicked Trotskyite Tibetan nationalists had murdered him in cold blood. He never quite understood why occasionally, when mentioning this terrible tragedy, Saul tended to make curious and inscrutable comments like ‘He who makes one lose his life shall save another.’
He tried to dismiss it as the drunken ravings of a brilliant but troubled soul; but something in his heart, some deep, ineradicably stubborn and persistent mustard seed’s intuition, told him that there was a little more to that story than most people (including Saul’s bosom friend, Adolph Adams) would ever know.