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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?
Braun Saxon is lying on his own bed in his own house. The king is in his castle again. All is right with the world.
His eyes are closed, and there is an inane grin on his face. This is not the rock hard bed at the Cozy Cot Motel; far from it. He and Brett always preferred soft sleeping, and to lie on this mattress is to sink into a cloud of the choicest feathers, under a coverlet no weightier than a summer morning's mist.
He belongs with Brett. Braun has always belonged with Brett. They are the perfect couple. They have always been the perfect couple. Except that her work takes her to the farthest ends of the earth, leaving him alone and missing her. But there is no way that she wouldn't travel; if she weren't doing her work, she wouldn't be Brett, the woman he loves.
Braun half opens his eyes. Past his feet is the closet, the door still open. Brett rushed out, having put off her departure until beyond the last possible moment. She had a ride to meet and a plane to catch to join her expedition. She has now gone until the rainy season. But she has left not a marriage in tatters, but a relationship that is being rebuilt. She has left not a broken past but a promise for the future.
A promise for the future.
Braun cannot believe his fortune, that he is as lucky as he is to be married to Brett. No other woman would understand him so well, and be so willing to forgive him. Sure, he's made a mistake, but who hasn't? And if a mistake cannot be forgiven, then life is nothing but the slow disintegration of promise of potentiality into the disaster of actuality. Everyone makes mistakes. What is a mistake, for that matter, except a failure to meet up to the expectations of others? By that definition, only those others can make mistakes disappear.
And Brett has made Braun's mistake disappear.
Braun sits up on the bed and opens his eyes wide. He can't lie here forever. For one thing, he has to go check out of the Cozy Cot. It will take him about five minutes to pack up his meager belongings into his duffel bag and sign the Visa bill and get out of there. He is probably the longest term resident the place has had since it opened. It's not exactly like Cole Porter keeping an apartment at the Waldorf Astoria.
"You're the top. You're the Coliseum…."
He sings the words aloud as he swings his feet around and places them on the floor. From this position he can see out the bedroom door into the hallway, a view he has not seen for weeks, and a view that, until now, he has not known how much he has missed. Life is a collection of many little things interspersed with very occasional big things; you can remove the big things and survive, because it is the little things that are the warp and woof of a person's existence. The little things like the view out the bedroom door, the feel of the pile of the bedroom carpet between your toes, the lingering smell of your wife's perfume and the gentle sound of traffic outside a window cracked an inch to let in the fresh air of Autumn. It's the little things that matter, that add up to a life.
"You're the top. You're the Louvre museum…."
The song will not go out of his head.
You're Celine's hiatus, you're French potatoes, you're Pets dot com.
Hiatus and potatoes? Well, it's not exactly like Cole Porter, but it will do on a cold day when you're finally back with your wife, where you definitely belong, and why did it take so long to get there in the first place?
The sound catches him as he is closing the door to the bathroom. Why he is closing the door to the bathroom becomes suddenly unclear to him, as there is no one else at home.
It is the alarm on his watch.
It is one thirty.
He has an appointment at two o'clock.
He is meeting Cartier for lunch.
He turns off the alarm.
Cartier. He has forgotten all about Cartier. Thoughts of Brett have erased Cartier from his mind. But now the ping of his alarm watch has brought her back to him. They have a lunch date at the same Mexican restaurant where only a few hours ago Braun and Brett were tentatively ordering their huevos rancheros. Where only a few hours ago Braun and Brett were estranged, before their rapprochement.
He quickly throws water onto his face. "Damn," he mutters.
The last thing he wants to do is be late for his date with Cartier.
Cartier. You're a Porsche two-seater, you're Hum's Lolita, you're mes etoiles.
Mes etoiles, indeed.
Two-seater and Lolita? Oh well, it's better than hiatus and potatoes. Barely.
After the double-octos round, everyone gathers again in the cafeteria. That is what the elimination rounds are all about: fewer and fewer people debating and more and more people congregating.
When Tom Starbuck enters the cafeteria, about half of the Nighten Dayers have regrouped at their table. Starbuck knows that Buglaroni has won his round; after that one was concluded, Starbuck stayed on and watched a couple of kids he didn't know have at it. He found it quite entertaining, like all the fun parts of law at an extremely elementary level, and none of the bad parts. He can envision that every kid in this room will someday become an attorney. It is a sobering thought for anyone who isn't already an attorney.
"Enjoy your rounds, Mr. Starbuck?" Griot Goldbaum asks him as he sits down again.
"Very much so. How about you?"
Griot nods. "I picked up."
"How about everybody else?"
Griot raises an eyebrow. "What about them?"
"How did everybody do?"
"You don't know?"
"No. I just got here."
Griot smiles. "You're missing my point. Do you still have the schematic I gave you?"
Starbuck thinks for a moment, then reaches into the right outer pocket of his sports jacket. Sure enough, there is the sheet that Griot marked up before the round. He holds it out to the boy.
Griot shakes his head. "That's all right. I already know it."
Starbuck looks at the sheet. "You mean--"
"Yep. The ones I marked all picked up."
Starbuck smiles. "You're good at this."
"I'm not good," Griot says. "I'm the best."
Starbuck shrugs, and catches sight of his briefcase. Griot's sports picks are in there. Anybody who debates every week can pick a debate winner. But can Griot pick a winner in the real world?
"The schematics for octos should be out soon," Griot says. "Are you going to watch more rounds?"
"Oh yes. Definitely."
If he says the horse can do, can do, can do?
"Want me to pick them for you?" Griot asks.
Starbuck hands him back the sheet.
"Be my guest," the lawyer says.
As a tournament approaches its final rounds, the judges' lounge loses much of its dubious attraction. The conversation loses its spark after twenty-four hours of forced confinement, the hired judges have done the math enough times to realize that this is dipping into indentured servitude, and there hasn't been a parent dropping by to replenish the supply of taco chips since ten o'clock this morning. Loose sheets of newspaper are tossed around on the chairs and tables and floors, open to half-finished crossword puzzles and the comics pages. A serious looking man in his mid-twenties who hasn't moved from his chair since last night's ziti is staring at the screen of his laptop, his fingers typing furiously. Every few minutes someone closes the window to block out the blasts of cold autumn; in a litany-like reply, every few minutes someone opens the window to vent the dry heat of the creaking radiator. Algren students roam in and out, no longer fearful of the sanctum sanctorum aspects of the place, but still wanting to absorb some intangible sense of that sanctity.
At the table in the middle of the room, Lisa Torte is steadily working her way through a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, occasionally washing the chips down with a swig of bitter judge-lounge coffee. She has not taken her coat off since arriving his morning, and she looks as if she is expecting to be taken away by the police at any moment. Surrounding her spot on the table are the remains of the pizzas brought to the lounge for lunch, open boxes with two or three cold slices still waiting for the attack of the indiscriminate appetite that will sooner or later occur.
Invoice O'Connor won his double-octos LD round, and is advancing to octos.
Tara Petskin and Haircut Puente won their octos Policy round, and are advancing to quarters; Seth B. Obomash is with them now, prepping against the Bush Grandchildren disad. The rest of the Veil of Ignorance Policians have been eliminated.
If I eat any more of these chips, Lisa thinks, I will get as fat as Seth B. Obomash. I will become Seth B. Obomash. The transformation will be complete.
She eats another potato chip.
When Lisa Torte envisions herself, she usually sees someone roughly as chubby as Calista Flockhart. But she is losing her ability to see herself, not just as she is, or could be, but in any way at all. When she closes her eyes to imagine Lisa Torte, there is nothing there.
She is firmly convinced she is losing her mind.
I don't know how this happened, she thinks, her lips moving slightly and a soft breathing hum coming from the back of her mouth. I am the most focused person I know. I have always been a focused person. Always very smart. Knew where I was going. And then I got involved with Veil of Ignorance, and Policy, and Invoice, and Seth, and Tara.
What have I done to deserve this?
She leans back her head and closes her eyes. She probably won't get home tonight until after midnight. Which means that she will fall asleep instantly and wake up sometime tomorrow about noon. She imagines her day. She will go out and get the paper, and a bagel, and dinner too while she's at it, a frozen macaroni and cheese. Extra large. And beer. Dark beer, imported, with extra alcohol. And she'll rent a video. A couple of videos. Good old-fashioned self-pitying videos. All with Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts, the kind of movies that men avert their eyes from when the pass them at Blockbuster. Maybe she can find one with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. And with Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis and Cher all thrown in for good measure.
Do they actually make movies like that? If they don't, they should.
What better way is there to suffer a nervous breakdown?
"LD octo pairings!" a student calls out, entering the room with a handful of photocopies.
Lisa opens her eyes, holds out her hand, and prepares to reenter the world of the sane, at least for as long as it takes to judge a double flight of LD.
And then she can go back to her nervous breakdown.
She closes the window on the way out of the judges' lounge.
Will Braun give up Brett to get back with Cartier?
Will Griot successfully handicap the Octos round?
Will Lisa Torte ever take off her coat?
Will all the other religions get their bosses to start saying they're sorry too?
Will Bob Jones University change its initials?
If you knew Susie like we know Susie, you'd read our next episode:"Santana -- honest renaissance blast from the past or calculated move by baby boomers to pretend to be hip without having to buy any Rage Against the Machine albums?"
Go to the next episode due Mar 22, 2000.