“Cormorants were overhead. That was the day I graduated; it was 1971. Top of my class, and cormorants do not come as far inland as they were. An odd sighting. Our gowns were purple, which is an auspicious color. A learned man knows that purple is an auspicious color. There were four above me. I was fifth in the class rankings. I was recruited.
“Not everyone was recruited. The best, just the best. This was 1971. I swore my Oath of Office on the steps of Town Hall. I was in love and I had an apartment on the twelfth floor. I was recruited. My work had been rewarded. My father’s hadn’t, but I took the Oath of Office and when I did, I was wearing his suit. This was in his honor.
“Before law school, I had studied chemistry. I also received top honors in that field. The gowns were green, though, and there were no cormorants. Too much of a coincidence for them to show up twice. They’re a rare bird. I went to the University of Maryland. The Terrapins. I received top honors, and I could have pursued a career in chemistry.
“I was interested in the law. Words make up the law like elements make up chemicals. It was a lateral move, intellectually. I graduated in 1971 on the steps of Town Hall. My mentor was a man named Pullet. He was brilliant, and he complimented me often. I wrote several of his opinions. He was a judge. Once, he let me wear his robe. It was black.
“I do not have a child. People lie about me, and I do not have a child. My mother owned property in Georgia, and there were fields with cotton in them. The fields were beyond the houses. My mother owned all the property.
“Holly, Wood, and Vine fired me for no reason. I was a leading attorney, and they fired me on the steps of Town Hall in 1971 after nine years of service. I was not allowed to retrieve my belongings. Items were missing when they were returned to me. My possessions had been gone through. I practiced tax law, which is just like chemistry. Some elements neutralize other elements. Some combine. I would find the right mix. People got rich off of my work. I did, too. I had a boat that I berthed in Boone’s Docks. Slip 71. Slip 1971.
“They were cowards. All of them. I took the Oath of Office and they would not let me take my possessions. I want to look a man in the face. I’m a man. I passed the bar on the first attempt. That was in 1971. My mother was there at the ceremony. We took pictures, but I’ve lost them.”
“Friends, you have been lied to. Bamboozled. Hornswoggled, even. Listen to me now, because I’m telling you the truth, and there ain’t many in this world and certainly in this park who’s gonna do that. Man over there on his soapbox, he’s gonna give you a rap about his past–misremembered and fractured, as it were–and that lady over there’s gonna prophecize at you, but only your pal Randall gonna tell you the honest truth, yessir.
“Liiiiiiied to, yes, you have been. Gotta work eight hours, sleep eight hours, watch teevee and eat the other eight. You believe it? You believe that happy crappy? Not me. No, sir.
“Because I have seeeeeeen, my friends. The mountaintop ain’t high enough, and the ocean ain’t wet enough! Not to compete with what I know as truth.
“Not to compete with what I know as truth.
“Four years going on, four years past, four years in the service, and four years awake: that’s me, and I now come before you, standing on my soapbox, to share with you the good news of the First Church of the Iterated Crystal Meth.
“Little diamonds, my friends. This is the Lord, not some bearded mope on a cloud, and you know I am not lying because I told you so.
“The iterations, O, the iterations. Veins and nostrils and smokestack lightning: you ain’t never cum so hard in your life! You got arteries? I got highways, interstates, bloody and rushing and free, baby, free.
“Freedom lies in the ability to regulate. Don’t let the situation speed you up, slow you down! No! That’s your choice, you see, it’s your prerogative, it’s natural law to insist upon chemical freedom and any man says you can’t is your enemy. Tyranny of the bloodstream, fascism of the timestream.
“Who are they to tell you how fast to go?”
“People lived here before you, asshole, and they were probably smarter than you. Soft fuck that you are. Sloppy and late for appointments. Stains on your wrinkles. You need a haircut and a hard punch. Ever been punched in the face? Teaches you shit about yourself. Whether you’re a pussy or not. No electricity and no plumbing and no medicine and no Jesus and those fuckers were three times the man you are. Sleeping, they were three times the man you are.
“Devolution! That’s what’s around us. The slow surrender. Look at you. Look at us. Doughy and stupid. Belly like watery mud. Hands like satin. Round heels, every last one of you, every last one of us.
“You’re not rugged, and you’re not individual.
“Rights. You have rights. You love your rights, your fucking rights, but your ancestors had their wits. Difference between rights and wits is that wits actually exist. I bet one of you got a lawyer on retainer. Gonna make sure your rights are respected. Wouldn’t last a day, not a goddamned day, and you know it. You know how depleted you are. You know you’re not living up to your potential. You know you’re just a person-shaped lie.
“So you take pills. Doctor gave them to you, so they’re not drugs. Medication, because you’re sick. You’re so fucking sick, aren’t you?
“And you drink alcohol. You stink of it. Stink of wine. Reek of beer, not like a human. You don’t even smell human any more, did you know that?
“The drugs. The ones the doctor doesn’t know about. They make you smart, they make you creative, they make you so fucking special. You’re so fucking special, just like everyone else. You’re such a rebel, just like all the others. Smoke that dope, dope. Bang that shit, shit.
“Got no fucking idea who you even are. A mammal. When’s the last time you remembered you were a mammal? You’re not a taxpayer! You’re not a customer! You’re not a pedestrian! You’re a fucking mammal. Got the exact same needs as a prairie dog, but you can write poems about those needs and so you think you’re better. You think you’re better than prairie dogs. You’re not. Just more aboveground in your dealings.
“Cast it off.
“Burn it down.
“Leave it the fuck behind, leave it all the fuck behind.
“What’s a book ever taught you besides a new way to be sad? What did you ever see in a movie besides someone you weren’t gonna fuck, and somewhere you weren’t gonna go?
“Spectacular bonanzas. This is what awaits you. A life lived in glory, and honestly.
“Someone else grew your food. A stranger made your bed, and built your home. You’re no fucking pilgrim: you’re a tourist. All pilgrims are tourists. Put your hands on your goddamned life.
“A stranger will make your coffin, too. Cowards, the lot of you.”
“Why do you bring me here?”
“I like listening to them.”
“I don’t. I feel bad for these people.”
“You don’t think.”
“Some of them. Some of the time.”
“Great. I’m not coming any more. I get bad dreams when you bring me here.”
“Me, too. That’s why I come.”
The man and the woman walked away from Shrieker’s Corner, towards the Thoroughfare that ran through the Verdance, and then they turned south and did not hold hands; behind them, the freedom of speech was muscular and unabrogated, but tucked away in a corner where it wouldn’t bother people. On their left was a statue of a hand, upturned and bronze, and to their right was the forgotten grave of the Pulaski, and ahead of them was the Main Drag through Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.