Saturday, October 16, 2004



Yes, yes, fine. Rousseau and Jefferson are waiting outside. What of it? They are here every day, selling brioches. Get us each one, Derrida, and send them away.

B-but, M’sieu Barnier. I am speaking of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson.

I don’t have time for your jokes, Derrida. Just get us two brioches and a coffee.

I am not joking, Mr. Secretary. They are even wearing typical 18th-century clothing and reek of fish, sulphur and opium. They say they must see you now on a matter of international importance. Something to do with squid, and bugs, and a volcano. Mr. Jefferson says he has a letter from the American president.

Lunatics, then. Call security.

I think you should see them, sir. I think they are the genuine articles.

If this is one of your practical jokes, Derrida, I swear I’ll drop you out of the window onto the avenue.

Please, M’sieu.

[The phone rings.]

Yes, what is it? Yes, this is the minister. Who? Sartre? Jean-Paul? Ohhh, this is the day for jokes, isn’t it? My assistant? Why, yes, he’s here. One moment. [Cupping the receiver.] It’s your ass, Derrida. This is the last joke I’ll tolerate.

[Taking the phone.] Yes, who is it? Jean-Paul Sartre? Why are you crying? You can’t be resurrected? You are trapped in a volcano? I should channel for you? What is this “channel”? How can you be alive? There is no God, yes. No afterlife. What? Squid? You are a squid? You are forced to eat fish? Speak up, I can barely hear you, I—

Let’s be done with this, then, Derrida. Bring in this “Rousseau” and “Jefferson” and let’s have it over so you can have your laugh and I can beat your ass.

[Derrida opens the door. Two men walk in, dressed in coats and tails and hairstyles of the 18th century. Rousseau carries a large squid.]

Oh, Dieu! You reek of fish and sulphur and opium.

[Jefferson speaks.] So sorry. We’ve been busy. Mister minister, this letter is from the president.


No. The president. Mr. Lincoln.

Fools. Have your laugh, then. [He opens the letter, reads it.]

This says that Mr. Lincoln has taken over the American government. Legally. By acclamation. It’s on White House stationery.

It’s all true. Turn on your television.

... Chaos in Washington and across the country today, as Abraham Lincoln walked into the Capitol and asked for an immediate impeachment and vote. Assured that such a vote would be unconstitutional, Lincoln then proceeded to open two bug bombs and release them before anyone could knock him off his devil-cow. Over half of the congress fell instantly on their backs and dried up, with their legs in the air. The remaining members immediately elected Lincoln by acclamation. Polls taken across the country show the nation evenly divided, with a slim majority favoring Lincoln. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking through a new spokesperson, a Mr. Booth, have declared that they cannot support Mr. Lincoln, in spite of “sentimental ties” with him. Sources at the State Department say that Mr. Lincoln, operating for the moment out of the studios of National Public Radio, has sent representatives to France to ask for assistance ...

Sacre Bleu! That would be you two? And you, Rousseau? Why now?

I am always at the service of the natural order.

Mr. Jefferson?

A bas le Roi!

So, what can France do? Why do you both reek of fish and sulphur and opium? And why are you carrying a squid?

It’s a long story. Mr. Minister. Let me explain. It has to do with a mountain in Washington, some odd squid behavior in the Pacific, and the need to dream great dreams ... and ... we were ordered to bring the squid, and ...


And there is this.

Merde! It stinks! What is it, a dried squid?

No sir. It’s a former presidential political advisor, we think. It was handed to us by a large skipjack tuna on the voyage here. He said, “take Rove.”

Are you sure?

I can tell you this. We have been followed across the Atlantic by a large black man, wearing coat and tails, a top hat, odd dark glasses, and smoking a cigar. He wants this thing.

You took a ship here?

No, no. A dolphin. The black one was chasing us on a manta ray. He kept insisting he was on our side, a very powerful Loa whom we should trust since he’d been to treatment.

Brandy, Derrida. I must have brandy! Does Chirac know of this?

I don’t know sir. But I do know this is no time for brandy, or doubt, or superiors or prayer.

What are you saying?

It is time to leap into the abyss.

But I feel nauseous.

As you should, sir. As you should. Shall I call the Minister of the Navy?

The two men nodded, placing the squid silently on Monsieur Barnier’s desk. It lay there, flopping its tentacles around and winking at the minister with a round, wet saucer eye.

Then the minister saw it. In the seventh tentacle. A rubber-stoppered vial. He grabbed it.

It was labeled “Om Mani Padme Hum 20mg./ml.”

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