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Posted by on Aug 20, 2022 in Fiction, ISLE OF DOGS, Sci Fi Noir | 0 comments

excerpt: Isle of Dogs Part Four

The flowers in the marble foyer were fresh, just
picked, and arranged in a large black vase on a
rosewood table in front of a twenty-third-century
Czech mirror. Albion fussed with the
arrangement—wiped nonexistent dust off the table,
polished a smudge on the mirror—before heading to
the kitchen for an update. When he had last checked,
the lobsters had not yet arrived from Labrador.
The Ruler Renee sat in the main living room,
calling out, “They’ll be here soon. Are you dressed?”
From the first-floor office Old Sargon yelled,
“There’s time.”
The last of the sun was pouring in through the
west windows, filtered by tall oaks. “They called to
say they were stuck in traffic but should be here
soon. The guests arrive in an hour. Please!” She called
Albion. “Are their rooms ready?”
“My Lady, the Red Room, the Clinton Room, and
Tompkins Suite are made up. The faucet in the
Clinton Room is no longer dripping and the
Tompkins sauna works.”
“Good. The champagne and strawberries?”
“Chilled and ready to be sent to their rooms upon
arrival. Hot towels too.”
“We’ll take cocktails in the garden, I think it’s cool
The Ruler Sargon emerged from the office with
Robin. He said, “Does it not seem strange to be
entertaining theater people when the town is overrun
by heavily armed imbeciles?”
“It especially makes sense,” Renee said. “Now,
we’ve managed to get through the past few days
without any rages and I would appreciate it if you
would continue to behave in a dignified and rational
manner, at least long enough to get this over with.”
Old Sargon had the expression of a constipated
insomniac, his eyes marbled with red. His hair was
the same length and color as hers. “I think I shall have
to grow a beard,” he announced.
“You are too old for that. Now, sit down and
learn a bit about our guests.” He sat down. “Albion,
tea. Stefan Gorky is thirty-seven, educated at the
Sorbonne. He interned at the Brecht in Berlin and
was associate director of the Little Company at the
Hungarian National Opera before founding his own
group. He’s a bit of a rebel.”
“I hope so.” There was a knock at the door.
“Goodness. I’ll greet them. You go and put on
clothes suitable for a former President.”
“When did you start to care so much about this
shit?” he asked.
“When did you become so vulgar?”
Sargon stood over her and said, “Vulgarity excites
you, and that excites me.”
Renee laughed. “Incorrigible flirt. Lechery’s
unbecoming in any man, but it is the vice of old
Rulers that is most repulsive to observe.”
“I wouldn’t have to flirt if you allowed me to bring
Ruth and Phaedra home, or let me travel to them.”
Sargon went upstairs to their rooms in the South
Wing. He was looking forward to having guests once
again in his halls. Despite his complaints, he loved
when artists paid homage to them. It was the part of
the job he liked best, both as Ruler of the city, and
then as Vice President—collecting for the National
Gallery, sponsoring plays and performances of all
kinds. The horse carriages would line up outside of
their door, as in the old days. Albion came in with his
tea and began to lay out a tuxedo.
“Have the lobsters arrived?”
“Just now, Sire. The boar and the pheasant too.”
“Good. Let’s have that white Bordeaux the
Viscount de Rougemont sent last year with the Dover
sole, an Alsatian Riesling for the lobster I think, a
reserve, but not too much age, and for the game-bird
course we’ll have a Grand Cru Burgundy, Domaine
Leroy, say an ’83? Ask Jacques, he’ll know what’s
right. An Amarone, at least twenty years old, for the
boar, and a botrytis white for the dessert course, make
it Château d’Yquem, since we’re celebrating. And
brandies and cigars, etc.”
“What color tie, Sire?” he asked.
“Oh, what do you think?”
“My Lady is wearing platinum with a diamond
“She always looks best in silver white, don’t you
“It’s been an age since we’ve done this. Has a bit of
a Titanic feel, don’t you think?”
“Life goes on, Sire. I have read that inmates of the
Nazi death camps wrote symphonies and performed
“Quite so. Terezín. Poetry too. What else does one
do but die and write poems about dying?”
“If you go with the green tux, a maroon tie would
be good.”
“Not bright green! I won’t look like a lawn.”
“Rather artichoke. Or asparagus.”
“Oh yes, with the purple sheen? That would be
perfect with the tie, and matching shoes.”
“The wingtips?”
“I was thinking the penguins.”
“They do make you waddle, Sire.”
“That’s what My Lady says, but they impart to
the gait a non-threatening lilt. I would appear to be
a harmless man of wealth and fashion, a doddering,
retired grandee. Like the Old President, with his
ribbon cutting and such.”
“I am told, Sire, the Old President enjoyed nothing
more than a ribbon cutting followed by a banquet.”
“Oh, those days of pomp are long behind us, I’m
afraid.” He sighed. “There are so few I can talk to,
Albion. Do you know how much I love you?”
Albion nodded. “My thanks, Sire. I don’t deserve
such intimacies.”
“It never ends. I could be a drunk in the gutter
and you would still behave as if you were unworthy.
I’m afraid this chain is unbreakable. Too bad. I tire
of railing against it, of fighting. Survival, pah.
Sometimes I think Robin is right and we should just
get out of here. But I can’t abandon my city. It is no
mere cliché to say I love the walls of this city. I do.”
“Anyone born in their shadow loves them, Sire.
Within we are many, but to the world without, one.”
“I hope so. To think I was once so alarmed that
a few of Iocle’s Red Suits disrupted things in town.
Now look, a veritable army of occupation usurps me,
and I do nothing but curse it, as if mere words could
drive them away. I don’t even know if I have the
loyalty of Roosevelt. Every day he seems to make
more and more common cause with the Federales. It’s
like Euclid all over again. And yet I hear of resistance.
It even makes the news. The bombings last week.”
Sargon buttoned up his shirt and Albion handed
him his pants. He put them on, his belly, grown
broad, pushing against the waist. As Albion adjusted
the fall he continued, looking at a bald spot on his
head, “Of course, we can’t have public disorder. But
Everest is illegitimate. I can hardly blame the people
who rebel in my absence. They must despise me.”
Albion fussed with the maroon bow tie and the
collar, one eyebrow raised. “Sire, your people love
you. You are their one true Ruler. The recent
violence was obviously wrong, but directed not at
your person, rather at he whom you oppose.”
“Despise. I am so filled with hatred and invective, I
can’t sleep without the screams of fuck in my dreams
awakening me. I’m afraid I’m becoming alcoholic.”
“Your accumulation of venerable years permits
some slight indulgences, Sire, especially those that
smooth over the agitations of loss and mortality.”
“Agitations of loss and mortality! Good one, my
friend. Old President Iocle writhing in his wrinkles in
that chair! Poor Bard. He wasn’t wrong, you know.
I’ve always believed in a Republic, if you had to
start from scratch. The Rulership is simply wrong,
but order, Albion, order and tradition. Who am I to
defy either? Otherwise who’s to say where Drift will
lead? The best we can do in life is to find pleasant
eddies and ride them to the end. In my case, not so
pleasant. My city, gone. It’s shocking. It’s sickening!
I feel the vomit rise in my gorge when I consider
what that jackal from Texas, Tejas, has managed to
do in a few years. Put us back a century, or more.
Battles in all of the cities, entire states under siege.
Yes, Canada is looking better every day. But they
wouldn’t have us, at least not as Rulers. I’d be in a
waiter’s tux if I were there.” He laughed. “Imagine,
Albion, you take a vacation in Montreal and go out
to a restaurant, an American restaurant, and I’m your
waiter.” He laughed some more, and then mimicked
a waiter taking an order, “And what will you have
with that, sir, Thousand Island or Russian? Would
you like roasted or fried potatoes?”
Albion suppressed a smile and blushed. “Sire. You
will make me laugh.”
“Tragic! Albion, why have we become so
goddamn serious? It was a funny country once.
Anarchic, but funny. Even the corporate period was
famous for its comedies.”
“But the great ones predate that, I believe.”
“Indeed.” Albion brushed the suit’s shoulders and
lapels, adjusted the tie, and groomed his long, coarse,
white hair so it fell straight down against his cheeks,
his lion eyes turquoise and framed with deeply
etched, tawny skin, momentarily serene. “Well, let’s
meet our guests.”

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