Friday, August 28, 2009

Scenes 49 & 50

Certain theories claim that governments are designed to help people in valuable ways. For example, governments protect citizens from physical harm (by fighting crime or restraining wild animals) as well as emotional harm (by inventing colorful flags and rousing songs to keep people focused on the right things). In the age of the Sucke Brothers, government officials stay pretty focused on maintaining a tax base, to pay for the fire engines and the filing cabinets and the Styrofoam cups, not to mention their own salaries. But the tax base problem is a big one. The Suckes empty a place out, which tends to leave a crater where the tax base was before. Yet states and cities—and the people who govern them—have to look busy, to keep everyone from grabbing their pitchforks. The Suckes know this. So SBE, Ltd., having hoovered the place up in the first place, sends out minions from the omnivorous corn starch men to negotiate with the government people. There’s always a big conference table and a lot of liquid stool behind the scenes. These negotiations typically produce monumental headlines announcing (say) six custodial jobs, a refurbished lunch counter, randomized gift certificate awards and possibly a bronze cast of somebody’s wife. Then, in following days, word trickles out: gigantic long-term tax abatements have been granted. These will keep the company viable for the next two decades, but zero out the tax effect except for payroll deductions on the janitors. People can make it sound good. But it’s a screw job.



Myron explains things simply. Old friends. On vacation. A quarrel. Myron is feeling guilty, silly and duped. Professor K is looking at Blinky. “He will need ze healing.” Then she looks at Myron, and squints. “I zense someting. You. You need ze healing too.”

Myron objects. “No, I’m fine. We have to take care of Blink--”

“No,” says Professor K. “There’s someting. In here.” She makes a gesture that traces her digestive tract.

Blinky is struggling to reach for something. K pulls a postcard from the scorched jacket. She turns it over to look at it, and says, “Ach.”

Blinky struggles to speak. “I want to go there.” The Professor inhales deeply then walks over to a cabinet behind the desk, which probably stores rusty tools and sticky old plastic binders from 1978. She opens the cabinet, bends down and looks very carefully at whatever is in there. Then she pops back up with a book.

“Ze Moundbuilders!” she announces, way theatrically. “Ze Mysterious Moundbuilders!”

She starts walking around, lecturing. “Ven the settlers first came to zis country, to ze vest, past ze Alleghenies, zey discovered many many of ze eartworks. Mounds, zey called zem. Zey discovered tousands of mounds.” She goes on to explain that these mounds were made from millions of baskets of dirt, dumped on top of each other, day after day after day. The earliest of these structures were seriously BC. Conical-shaped piles. She gives a technical name that nobody remembers later.

The function of these things had to do with burying people.

“How do you know about this stuff?” asks Myron.

“I am ze professor. Ze professor of Archaeology,” she says grandly.

“Wow,” murmurs Blinky.

“Mansfield Community College,” she adds. “Ze night school gig.”

She sits down with the book in her lap. “You call me ‘Professor K.”

“Special K,” says Bllinky, smiling.

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