Could be the weakness brought on by this cold, or flu, or whatever has me sneezing in flurries yesterday and today, but I have to entertain the idea, mad as it also is, that my father actually did win the war. A capable double threat prosecutor-defense attorney, he blustered his way past reason and decency to sway many juries, and, in the end, by quickly dying with his children’s apparent forgiveness, may have snuck away the winner of the war.
“The cost was terrible, I’ll grant you, but that’s war for you,” said the skeleton with a macabre smile. “You know, you grouse about it, refuse to accept it, but there actually are winners and losers in the world. You can do either one with any degree of grace, but that doesn’t change the reality on the ground. Some people win, most people lose. Most people lose big time. It’s simply the homo sapiens way, Elie.”
That’s the kind of gross oversimplification behind which great national and religious slaughters are unleashed, on which, in turn, great fortunes are made. You died lamenting that you had seen the world in black and white, wistfully thinking of how much richer your life would have been if you’d seen all the nuance, the beautiful gradients.
“Well, you put it that way, I was always a plain spoken man. It’s essentially right though, I did regret that black and white worldview I always rigidly maintained. You can go back to the transcript and get the exact quote. I notice you haven’t been to the transcript of our last talk, except fleetingly, during this entire process the last eight months. Aren’t you going to thoroughly mine the scant primary sources you have?
“It’s not like you, you’ve always been pretty scrupulous about accuracy and verisimilitude. The one part of law school you actually liked was finding and citing great sources while constructing an argument– finding the authoritative bits and meticulously nailing them into the construction of your story.”
Yeah, yeah, don’t remind me of law school. That was one battle you won as you were cunningly winning the war, eye for an eye, a world of blind men looking for vengeance. I seem to feel myself slipping away, even as I type I’m getting weaker and weaker. It stands in for the ultimate slipping away, I suppose. Hopefully it’s just this summer cold, an ugly animal.
“Or maybe it’s finally dawned on you, we cannot change our essential natures. Sixty years is a pretty good sample size for a human life, wouldn’t you say? Do you still think a leopard can change its spots? Can you suddenly become an energetic and skillful salesman, a closer, after a life of leisurely contemplation and avoidance of the hard-headed competition the workaday world is made of? You understand this is a bare knuckles brawl you’re in, don’t you?
“Your friends, and all of their adult children, for that matter, have all figured out the most basic parts of life: working, bringing in a decent income, having a nice home, raising a family, having a social life, enjoying the fruits of their labors. You, on the other hand, having figured out none of these things, are sitting in a room having an extended chat with a dead man who beat you to a bloody pulp, in a manner of speaking.”
No argument, at the moment, but I’m very, very tired. It might be time for a nap before I whip you into shape in the rewrite.
“I remind you, in fairness to you, that you often get this way around Labor Day,” said the skeleton.