Wrought-iron grillwork locked down the vaulted windows spaced across the pastel-pink façade of the wall outside Stone’s recently renovated office. Spermaceti wax candles—perhaps holdovers from Stone’s maritime period—burned in each window, a throb of weak flame over the vines spilling off the sill. Janus greeted his new friend The Minister of Corporate in the doorway of Stone’s office.
“What does he want with you, Janus?” the Minister said.
“It has to do with my work. He wants me to prove certain things that are still shadowy, life and death sort of things. Principal Stone has high expectations and I am learning how to deal with that.”
“You said it,” said the Minister. “He wants me to help him solve the problem of time. He keeps talking about some Mayan mumbo jumbo.”
“Yes, he certainly has a Mayan fetish of some sort,” Janus agreed. “Do you know if the Maya were ever active in what’s now Costa Sita?”
“I don’t know. That’s a good one. Well, good luck. Oh, and Janus?”
“It’s about Katydid. Do you think she likes me? I’d like to be her road manager. Magnetic I mean.”
“I’m not sure,” Janus said. “I find it difficult to understand Katydid. I can’t seem to get the facts on her. As for whom Katydid fancies, I’m not sure. But I do know that several of The Crudes are said to be competing for her admiration, and that some old-style dueling is involved, with pellet guns.”
“Well, I’m not scared of any Crudes.”
“They are not to be feared. Just use your wits and avoid sudden encounters. I hear they chew qat and can become unpredictable and aggressive.”
“Well, thanks for talking to Katydid for me. I really appreciate this, Janus.”
“I didn’t say—” Janus was saying, but the Minister had shuffled back into the melee of the noonday hallways.
The office had widened, broadened, and doubled in size, and it was now a sunny open-air courtyard bound by a colonnade of skinny vine-spiraled pilasters. Scrawny roosters pecked at inedibles mistaken for feed around a sputtering hacienda fountain, atop which whipped the olive-colored, red-starred Costa Sitan flag. The flag of a much older regime. Water grass thrived in the basin; tropic breezes sidled through. Old men in military regalia loafed on the iron benches, reading eroding Spanish newspapers. Janus couldn’t read the dates. Physical Stone sat at his desk at the far end of the courtyard, brushing a set of magnets. Hologrammatic Stone studied the moisture-warped bookshelves of the library on the wall behind the colonnade, the shelves crowded with yellowed hand maps of the central jungle and old oversized typewritten manuals on kleptocratics, the monopolization of infrastructural support sectors, and how to train your mercenaries for effective nocturnal mobilization of a capital in the hands of state protectionists, as well as one or two silk-bound books of famous dreams recorded by Costa Sitan figureheads through the ages—minor prophesies and such.
“Who are these men, sir?” Janus said.
“Deposed generals from former, and let’s say less popular, Costa Sitan regimes,” Stone said. “They want nothing from you, and only a little sanctuary and companionship from me, in exchange for which they’re providing invaluable consultation to your very own Ms. Denton, TX as she plans your Homeroom lesson.”
“No rush. Can’t rush love. Just remember the advantages a trainable heir can give to the scientist, who must toil upon this earth at the slothful pace of methodologies, noting futile quanta as the limits of his mortality approach at ever more hurtling speeds of perception. Such an heir would have your brains, Janus, and Katydid’s—should you choose to marry and share your lives and genetics—Katydid’s chutzpah.”
Janus scribbled Stone’s advice regarding heirs in the margins of his notecards. Only the sound of Janus’ frenzied scribbling and the long, fluid exhalations of cigar smoke from the ex-generals interposed upon the pauses between Stone’s questions and instructions. Janus heard the occasional shuffle of a rooster or the rustling of a newspaper reporting from some brutal regime now reduced to a general’s nostalgia, then the faintest patter of the hacienda fountain through the choke bloom of the grasses.
Jack Boettcher is the author of Theater-State (Blue Square Press, 2011).