17. "Arbitrary Law"

"'Poor young man. I hear he has a certain habit!'"

- François Coppée (Arthur Rimbaud), "The boy who picked the bullets up", published in the Zutist¹ Album

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by Lucas Edwards

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Episode Seventeen

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I found a page from Edward's journal which he did not include in Harar: Taken to Twin Peaks and which I'm going to include here:

(E-novel note: This is the only page of the e-novel never to change. - Lucas Edwards) (Hacker note: Never believe anything said or written by Lucas Edwards.)

(Ignore that movie critic behind the curtain.)

(E-novel note, two: This is the only page of the e-novel to change and it does so every day from February 11-April 16, 2003 and then all changes stop, or do they? - luke edwards)

("Ignorance = Strength" - George Orwell, 1984, Free Speech is not a job benefit here, Apply at your own risk, English majors need not apply, these are notes that indicate they were written long after the rest of this and the accompanying story, sometime in August, 2003. - The Hacker)

I've forgotten where the movie review is.


I went looking for a volume by Cendrars in the many used book shops around Seattle.

Instead I found a copy of Mother Night!

It's the only major work of Vonnegut's that I've never read.

Early in the first draft of Harar, I wrote a note to myself to find the Vonnegut quote I vaguely remembered about "be careful who you pretend to be."

I first read the quote in my antique copy of "Cliff Notes: The Major Works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." He was still "Jr." then but had actually already discarded that just before this "Cliff Notes" version was printed.

My guess was that the quote came from the treasure-trove of an early novel, Cat's Cradle. That, or God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, the first work of his I read after Slaughterhouse Five and one I remembered the least.

But this has nothing to do with Vonnegut. I was looking for a book by Cendrars at a used bookstore days ago.

No Cendrars (no surprise). But they did have a copy of Mother Night, the only Vonnegut novel I haven't read. Paperback. Original cover price: $2.25. Price in pencil on the first page inside: $1.25.

I took it to the till. "This isn't our price but I guess I'll let you have it for that," the guy grudgingly said. There was almost an expectation in his voice that I'd offer him something more.

I offered my comment that I'm looking for Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse Five and Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons to complete my Vonnegut collection. (Palm Sunday, the paperback [copyright 1981 by, get this, The Rmajac Corporation, A Laurel Book, published by Dell, printed April, 1984; reprinted by arrangement with Delacorte Press], lists his "Other Titles" in alphabetical, rather than chronological, order; unusual.)

I almost skipped across the street.

I walked a few blocks to the public transport, got on, opened the book to page one to begin reading.

First paragraph of the introduction: "This is the only story of mine whose moral I know," Vonnegut writes. "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

I don't think this qualifies as a BM. A Baader-Meinhoff is to a Bowel Movement what finding Mother Night is to great sex. I experienced a oneness with "That Great Oh In the Sky."¹

The fact that the book is the purported confessions of a fictional character, the Nazi sympathizer Howard W. Campbell, Jr., is apt.

I'm reminded, of course, of Moravagine, a novel by Blaise Cendrars. Moravagine is the journal of a madman in which Cendrars appears as a minor character toward the end, a sort of "editor" (like Vonnegut calls himself in Mother Night) whose purpose in the plot is to deliver these writings of a madman.

In reading Mother Night, I'm trying to savor it, read it slowly. It's, of course, like anything Vonnegut has written, not foma but genius.

I, Lucas Edwards, am in a destructive mood.

Ich bin au'.

Twenty-five minutes later an entire table of Air Force personnel was seated, regulars, minus Joe. The others were talking about how they don't actually like him though he is always with them. 

"He always sounds like he's arguing with himself," one says with a look at me as though he meant I'm the same way which, at the moment, I certainly was.

"He's the only one I know can do that and still lose," another said, intending it to be a joke. I took it as a threat that I too was about to lose a big argument with myself.

Twenty-five minutes after their arrival, the radio plays "I Know a Heartache When I See One" as three local regular customers entered, a sort of contrast to the Air Force guys. The word "heart" was a code word from the night before when I wrote myself to sickness.

There. Damn. Sentence fragment: something about a sand castle built close to the tide line.

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