The Capital

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“Why do you always look at me like I’m not real?”

Rather than answering I look out the restaurant window at the people pushing bales of hay up and down the street. The air between us has frozen solid, plastic toys and an old shoe are suspended in it. He says something else but I can’t hear it over the thunder of the waterfall at my back. I look down the sheer cliff, an immense drop to a pool of dark water furiously beating itself into a foam. My chair is at the very edge of the rock and the rock is wet, but I will not fall. I’m safe. Overspray moistens my face. I like it. Maybe I’m thirsty. I look at him again. Now he wears a silken hood over his head and is eating soup through it. How clever, I think. He lifts the spoon to his lips, the hot liquid goes through the fabric and into his mouth, cooling down in the process. He takes the hood off. His head is now a giant cigarette.

They call the door “The Egyptian Eye,” though it is not really a door nor does it look like an eye. A natural split in the rock wall, which the monks put an iron gate on long ago, hides in shrubbery by the side of the road. If you know about it, you come to it, shake the gate, and wait for the wordless monk. If he comes, reading you from the inscrutable darkness of his cloak, he may or may not let you in. Once in the garden you may get lost, as there are often fields of wheat taller than a man, and negotiating the narrow pathways threaded through them requires labyrinthine skills. From the esplanade beyond you can see the Capital, something of a medieval ziggurat, a massive rock complex  sitting squarely upon the Earth and boldly reaching skyward. The stairs are tricky, they look like one could fly up them, but they’re yet another laborious maze weaving in and out of the ornate facades. Up on the rooftop, you grab a chair and wait for things to be set up.

Five men dressed in red take aim at the bullseye painted on the man’s bare chest. He is strapped to a chair and they’ve put a bag on his head. “Fire!” The rifles bark in unison, a dull, muffled cough. The man’s chest bursts like papier-mâché, a cloud of fiber shreds swirling about him. He trembles briefly, starts falling sideways. The restraints hold him. Dead now, the men immediately begin disassembling the display. One of the reporters is sick. “He moved. I saw it. I didn’t want that.” So they’ve killed two men, the one in the chair, and the one who will now live with the memory of a sloppy execution.

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Reading the news before bedtime will do some strange things to your dreams.
I don’t think there is an absolute answer to the question of capital punishment, but I do believe that on a case-by-case basis there should be no room for ambiguity.


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