I mentioned in last night's post that Jacques had come to the Island to take me to the Council again.
The last time was 11 years ago.
It was a better time than now.
But it wasn't good then, either.
Here is what happened after Jacques came and got me from my Paris apartment way back then.
I stopped when I got back to Rue de Rennes at Café du Métro for wine and onion soup. That supplied the energy for another hour of walking, looping back from Café du Métro, past Invalides and on to Avenue Rapp where I cut back to the river, past Pont d’Alma and back to Pont St-Michel.
By then Le Départ looked pretty good. And un pichet de rosé looked even better.
So I got back to the apartment much later than usual, much past dark, and more tired and more relaxed than usual.
A little glass of calvados seemed to be just the thing to celebrate the end of a great day.
I settled onto the couch and sipped the calvados and stared blankly at the dark screen of the television.
I may have drifted into entry level sleep or I may have accidentally dropped into a state of self hypnosis – there was a soft dripping from the slightly faulty toilet coupled with an unusual intermittent pulse of light coming in the casement. That light cast patterns across the space of the apartment in the gloom of the advancing evening. Either or both of those phenomena – the drip and the light - could have doused my hypnosis-prone consciousness into a state of almost, but not quite, being somewhere other than where I thought that I was.
Or I may have had some other sort of not-normal experience. I have a few times experienced a state that appeared, as I analyzed it later, to have been death, but which had not caused me to fade from existence. Or it could have been any of the - I expect there must be - infinite number of other states of existence or near existence that living creatures must slip in and out of upon occasion.
From this state - whatever it may have been - after some lapse of – dare I say, time - I found myself to be roused, or at least so I thought at the time.
I gradually became aware of, on the floor, an oddly oscillating pool of light that seemed as if it must somehow be related to the pulsing light, which, in unison with the dripping toilet, may have put me into my then-newly-emerged-from state.
But in opposition to that apparent accounting of its genesis, that light on the floor seemed markedly different from that outside source of hypnotic pulsing.
It was more of a static multi-colored mixture than an on and off blinking illumination. It had great similarity to that light that seems to exist behind the door outside my apartment.
In the center of it was the mouse.
Croissants and baguettes are enormous sources of crumbs. Unless one runs the vacuum every day after breakfast – which I do not - one quickly produces quite a scattering of, what - I now could see to be the case - mouse food. The creature was oblivious to my presence. It sat on its haunches – I had never seen a mouse do that except in Disney movies – and happily shoved crumb after crumb into its mouth. I also had never seen a mouse use its paws as hands, but this one was using its paws as hands. I also swear I thought I heard it softly humming a rather catchy, almost familiar tune.
Could it be “Green Sleeves”?
I kept deadly silent. This was such an interesting scene that I just wanted to sit and absorb it for a while.
The mouse finished a crumb, wiped its mouth – again its paw/hand being deployed in a human-like manner - and, looking at me, said, “I have brought a guest this time.”
I responded, “Who?” (All the other times Jacques has come to see me he has been alone and with messages about Adrianna; so I was very interested who might be the guest.)
The mouse straightened up from its rather hunched over posture on its haunches, stretched its front legs – I almost said arms – toward the ceiling, emitted that happy kind of sound that humans make when they have just had a good stretch, and brought its arms – I mean front legs - back to what I would call its lap if it were human; it looked at me for a moment. The look, I swear, projected a sense of friendliness and familiarity, combined with something else. Could that something else have been mild disgust? Do mice have that emotion to be registered in their facial expressions? Do mice have facial expressions?
“We call him Le President” he replied.
And he looked at me as he always does; he looked at me as if he expected me to respond in some meaningful way just as he did the first time he appeared to me and said: “you know that she is waiting for you, don’t you?” and “You have always called her Adrianna”.
“Great”, I thought to myself. “This time he is bringing exhibit A so I don’t have to play our usual game of twenty questions.”
But I kept that thought to myself and waited to see what was going to happen next.
I have had by now so many encounters with Jacques in his various forms – mouse, dog and house sparrow – that I no longer doubt his existence nor do I any longer question his oblique methods of getting to his various points.
So, when he continued mute I reciprocated in kind.
Jacques finally broke the silence.
“There has been a change of plan. I need to take you to him.”
“How are you going to do that.”
“The way I got here.”
And before I could even think of a reply, let alone vocalize one, I was elsewhere. Jacques stood next to me in a huge room with a table in its center and people seated at the table.
A doorman said to Jacques “Pardon me sir, who is your guest?”
“Noel from the Twenty First Century.”
“Ah, yes – a troubled time.”
“So take your seats in the chairs set out for the observers. The meeting is just starting.”
And we seated ourselves and a voice rang out un-assisted by electronic amplification.
“Who called this meeting?”
The speaker was hunched over his writing desk set off to the side, as were our observer chairs – unlike almost all of the other Leaders he eschewed a place at the huge narrow, but, it seemed, infinitely long, rectangular table that filled the meeting room (although there were a few others who chose his type of workspace) – and he had just dipped his quill into his pot of ink when word had arrived that a meeting had been called.
He was fairly short and dumpy and was bald at the major central part of his head, the baldness being compensated by flowing locks down below the crown of his pate; it was a genuinely eighteenth century look.
“I think it was The President” a short, trim fellow in the uniform of eighteenth century artillery general’s uniform replied.
(Actually, he said something such as “je pense il etait le president”, and that statement was uttered with a heavy Corsican accent. But this apparently was a post-life group, and language had become subliminally understandable to all of its members.)
As if in support of that assertion, a very tall, very dignified man in a blue revolutionary war American uniform entered the room.
He had apparently heard the question - and the answer - because he said “ It has been coming to us that that which we had expected to happen in only a few years and that which Thomas had always said was necessary for the refreshment of our society - that we tear up the document and start over – has finally after much longer than we had thought has begun to happen”.
“Therefore, as a member of this Council – we being an aggregate of equals – The council of The Leaders, I have asked for a plenary session to summon a representative from the Twenty First Century (a mild rumble of sound accompanied the mention of that century) to explain the problem so that we may rectify it.”
“Here, Here” was the rising cry as the members took their seats, or in a few cases, their writing desks and prepared to discuss what should be done.
“Since you all know my discomfort with extensive public speaking, I ask that you allow me to delegate leadership of the discussion” said The President.
Since the Council of Leaders was, as The President had previously said, a council of equals, anyone could call a session, and the protocol followed that he, or she who called the meeting, chaired the meeting, and led any discussion that the meeting generated.
But that protocol also allowed for unusual cases to accommodate members’ unique requirements. It allowed the delegation of a meeting’s leadership in special cases.
This was one of those cases. The President was not a speaker; he was a leader. And he accomplished the things he accomplished through his influence on others, not on his rhetoric.
So the protocol was invoked.
The protocol said that once such a delegation request had been made, it followed that there would be an automatic and proforma unanimous agreement by vocal acclamation.
“Hear, hear” said the chorus of voices that rose from the assembled Council.
“I would like to ask Winston to chair for me, in that case.”
An older gentleman with something of a stooped posture, wearing what appeared to be a British naval uniform from the Twentieth Century left a writing desk and took has position at the rostrum in the dead middle of the vast meeting room – it was enclosed by that gigantic rectangular table that squared the room. A small opening in that table at its apparent head was the access point that had allowed Sir Winston to take his place.
“I am honored, Mr. President; let’s be on with it then, shall we?” he said.
“I once had a similar duty assigned to me in The House of Commons and I was confronted then, as I am now, with the need to ask this question: Mr. President, with all due deference to your aversion for public speaking, we nonetheless need to have some indication of the case you perceive to be at hand. Could you, therefore enlighten us? You, of course, may be succinct.”
“Succinct is good” seemed to be a murmur from the assembly.
The President stood, rising from his place at the huge table. Then he put his right hand flat on the table; his left hand he put to his chin in what looked – initially - to be that gesture that always seems seems to imply a pondering mood – Rodin used it with The Thinker - on the part of the person employing the gesture. But the hand didn’t remain at rest in place on The President’s chin. It moved up briefly covering a major part of his mouth. And he seemed to push something in backwards into place; then he removed the hand.
“In Connecticut, one of the thirteen original states in the United States of America there was recently a mass murder. Twenty small children were massacred and six adults by a madman.”
This came out in very low, almost mumbled tones; but it was clear enough for all present to hear and understand.
“This mass murder was done with a firearm.”
The President repeated his hand to mouth with a push gesture, dropped the hand, and continued.
“I have requested the Twenty First Century person – an American and an American who owns firearms and who served honorably in our military, including in one of our wars of his time to be brought here by the Special Courier.”
The President paused for a moment, poured a short glass of water from the pitcher at his place at the table, and slowly drank the water.
Winston chose this moment to speak.
“Pray thee, sir, what has this to do with us? You have just described the condition of much of the human race at any given point in its long and – many times - dismal histoire. Mass murder is not a new thing”
The President bowed his head, either in sorrow or possibly in thought.
When his head came back level again with his shoulders he raised it upwards, stared at the chandelier in the ceiling, and repeated the hands to mouth gesture again.
“I need to know how it is possible that twenty six people can be killed with a musket or its Twenty First Century equivalent.”
All heads turned to me.
I just sat there trying to shrink into the cane seat of the chair.
But I was unsuccessful.
Sir Winston spoke.
“Thank you for joining us. Can you shed light on The President’s question?”
“Possibly. But to be sure I would need to ask The President a question.”
I almost fainted having said those words – asking The President – The President – a question?!
“Of course; what is the question?”
“What do you know about Twenty First Century muskets, Mr. President?”
He looked at me square in the eyes – his were icy blue – and said nothing for what seemed to be infinity.
Then he spoke.
“I know nothing of your firearms but the reason for my question is I do not understand how a weapon that fires a bullet and then needs to be re-loaded and then fired again, and so forth, can kill twenty six people. Were they tied down or in some other manner restrained?”
“No sir. They were running helter-skelter.”
“How was such a thing possible?”
“He had a magazine.”
“Magazine? What is a magazine?”
“Our guns have triggers that - once pulled - shoot as many bullets as they have available. A magazine is an external storage device that stores massive numbers of bullets and feeds them to that once pulled trigger. It is possible to fire thirty or more bullets with one trigger pull and then to remove the magazine and install another and do it over again.”
“But surely that is illegal?!”
“No. It is guaranteed by the Constitution.”
The President whirled from the position he had just occupied – looking out one of the high narrow windows as I spoke – and again fixed me with those icy blue eyes.
“You’re shitting me, right?”
The meeting broke up in pandemonium and Jacques and I went back to Paris.
Nothing much else happened today.
Now Jacques is back wanting to take me to see the President and the Council again.
I wonder if it has something to do with yesterday's post?