Monday, November 26, 2007

Chapter Six


He is troubled at night by recurring images running through his head. They're images which should belong to another person. They contradict his public persona. Now, as his brain slips into sleep and the images return, he wonders which "him" is the truth.

He sits not where he wants to sit. He's atop a podium at a judicial tribunal. Long robes cover him. Down below, at a plain wood table on a checkered tile floor, in handcuffs, await the accused. Wait! he wants to cry. I'd rather be down there, with you. Instead his large head carries forward as he signals his fellow jurists to begin the trial.

A man resembling Chief Lopate rises to read the indictment. Next to Lopate sits a dark-haired man with a malignant frown. How did I get mixed up with such as them, the Black-Hatted Man wonders? More, his fellow judges look to him for direction. To him! They work for HIM!

"Crimes Against Established Literature." Lopate in the Robes of Authority angrily points a shaking finger. Members of the ULA in the dock scowl back with reciprocal contempt. The Man in the Black Hat is of two minds about the hostile rebels. One side of him wants them wiped from the earth, banned forever, locked away in some underground literary dungeon never to be heard from again. Yet another part of him wishes he could pose as their savior; could borrow everything they represent, their authenticity, their voices, their cred. But he knows that to save them would be to destroy himself.

The other judges look now to him for direction, with sheeplike faces. It's his turn to speak, to enable the prosecution. His eyes glower with decision as he feels within him the unearned power he draws from his trappings; from his robes, his guards, his peers, and the impressively constructed courtroom festooned with golden symbols. Before the trial can continue he wakes up.

To get the recurring dream out of his head, the Man in the Black Hat journeys outside, warily onto the city's streets, seeking a latte coffee and a donut. There is a meeting of some importance later, he recalls, this afternoon, to discuss something. He has to be there. "He": the Very Important Man in the Black Hat. His falling-apart postmodern mind can't remember exactly what the meeting is to be about.

A homeless man stands threateningly on the sidewalk outside the local Starbucks. The man's features, or maybe just his eyes, resemble those of a prep school classmate from many years ago. The Man in the Black Hat wants to believe this man before him is a self-made failure. Why, once this fellow had been as privileged as himself! To admit there is something wrong with the city which surrounds him, with this civilization, is a conclusion he dare never admit, because it would pull out the foundation from beneath his all-powerful station; that which has fuled his identity, his success, his corrupt decisions these many years. The homeless man points a finger of accusation at him. In response he embraces the man.

"My friend! My former classmate!" he says to the smelly beggar. "You're sick! You're paranoid. It's conspiracy which you believe. Conspiracy! It's not true. Not true! Your eyes of accusation are not true! You need help. Get away from me!"

The Man in the Black Hat is running back down the street the way he came, scampering home, fleeing from himself while very upset at the world because he forgot to buy at Starbucks his coffee and donut.

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