2.8 Ada: Triumph and Transit
2.8.1 Madame Cava Convenes
L'Espace Taillevent, Restaurant Le Gardon Frit
1:00 pm Friday 27 November 1987
Before opening the door to Le Gardon Frit, Alenby took a moment to imagine Olympe's state of mind. Depressed at news of Miss Ada's recapture? Tense, perhaps trembling on the brink of rejecting him?
He need not have worried. He found her waiting for him as once before, at the foot of the stairway, but to his relief mixed with puzzlement, she greeted him in a manner carefree to the point of exuberance. "Come, courageous friend!" she murmured, taking him by the arm. "Come fast and see on la télé a program very interesting. A soon-to-be historical revelation!"
Though baffled by the oxymoron--la télé, interesting?--he at once yielded to her suggestion. Seconds later, secure in Olympe's apartment with the door locked, they settled in front of the TV--or as Olympe had taken to calling it, "our window into l'Espace Taillevent." The sound was that of Madame Cava in a state of exasperation approaching apoplexy. But the screen showed no recognizable object, just a jittery expanse of whiteness.
"That white space, it is the inside of the apron of l'ingénieuse Cléo," said Olympe, her words tumbling over each other in her excitement. She explained that in her role as waitress, Cleo was carrying a video camera hidden under her apron, ready to make a covert record of any criminally culpable goings on in l'Espace Taillevent. Cleo had already announced her intention of making any interesting results widely available by way of the new social communication medium known as You Tube.
Olympe quickly filled in the background: Madame Cava had called a meeting with Ada, to be attended also by the regional PROFATPOL chiefs. The aim of the meeting was to coordinate a cover-up of certain illegalities in police operations that were being probed by the famous journalist Willa 't Hellenbach. As Alenby was already aware, Ada's part in the cover-up was to serve as an involuntarily stand-in for Madame Cava in a one-on-one HV interview with 't Hellenbach.
When Ada failed to appear at the set time, Madame Cava, extremely irritated, announced a change of plan: the buffet lunch, originally planned to follow the business segment of the meeting, would be taken instead at the beginning. Accordingly, Chef Picpoul had the waitress--Cleo--bring the various offerings from the garde-manger and set them out on a large table that had already been placed in readiness.
As Olympe was saying this, the sound from the TV--the clink of dishes, the brisk tapping of Cleo's footsteps--was replaced by porcine grunts, presumably expressions of approval of the buffet on the part of the chiefs and their accompanying bodyguards. But the mood sharply negative when Madame Cava called Chef Picpoul to account for certain buffet items that she called in her grating Catalane-accented French, "infect," and consequently below normal standards for PROFATPOL entrapment operations. She took particular exception to the Collation of Salmon Steaks Louis XVI, voicing the suspicion that the salmon itself had been taken, not from the ocean off the coast of Scotland, but from a fish farm.
At his point Cleo's apron parted to reveal the scene in l'Espace Taillvent: the short, fat chef standing effortfully on tip-toe before his tormentor, as he admitted between sobs that the salmon was indeed farmed. Farmed, and all that word implied--contaminated with growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial color.
Under the burden of remorse additional to that of his weighty person, his legs wobbled out of control and he collapsed to his knees, yet he continued to protest his innocence of any wrongdoing or of any slackening in his determination to apply himself with all his might to the achievement of the aims of PROFATPOL. He struggled to explain how as a result of recent successes in the enforcement of Prohibition--particularly those successes resulting from the participation of the French Navy--fishing had become a dangerous occupation and fishermen naturally demanded more and more money. Wild Scottish salmon was plentiful, but compared to the farmed imitation its price had escalated to a point impossible to meet at current funding levels....
His protests were ineffectual. His voice petered out. Tears ran down his plump cheeks.
Madame Cava resumed in a barely audible snarl: Nobody seemed to realize how hard it was to squeeze money out of the legislature to support PROFATPOL's entrapment operations. The so-called Mothers bloc held the purse strings, and they wanted health care, education, symphony orchestras. The chef's job was to raise the necessary funds himself, by whatever means.
She never said the words, but her peau lisse gesture--fingertips of one hand brushing the palm of the other--left no doubt of the means she had in mind: extortion. And as an extortionist, this quivering prosub-slinger had failed dismally. He was a disgrace to PROFATPOL!
The PROFATPOL chiefs stared contemptuously at the disgraced chef, now weeping with abandon. Madame Cava smiled thinly.
Ada, who had been looking on in horrified silence, could no longer contain her indignation.
"No, no no! No, Extreme Lowness, you are mistaken!" she burst out. Distraught, palms pressed to temples, she scrambled up on to the buffet table, drawing raucous laughter when she accidentally stepped in a platter of Ballotine of Thanksgiving Turkey Left-Overs en Chaud-Froid and paused to clean off a soiled sandal. But she was not deterred. "No" she repeated, shushing her audience with an emphatic gesture. "No, Your Extreme Lowness, you are mistaken! Le Cèpe has not failed! He is not a disgrace! He is an accomplished blackmailer, a cold-blooded calculating swine!"
The PROFATPOL chiefs shifted in their seats, relaxed a little. One even lifted his hand in a sign of approval, as if accepting that the chef was one of them after all.
"I know how good he is," she continued in a voice that was quieter yet trembled with conviction, "because I am a victim. He threatened to expose me as a user and derail my most cherished political ambition, the Czarinaship. I was--oh, he was so menacing! I was frightened out of my wits. To keep him quiet, I gave him my 2CV plug-in. Then, a true professional, he was nice again. Without further prompting, he prepared for me a splendid repast featuring the meat of a Charolaise that had lived a contented life munching brisket-deep grass of a nearby secret meadow. Real meat, the meat favored by the trenchermen of la Belle France--Rabelais, Brillat-Savarin, Point, Curnonsky--not the flaccid grain-fed muck that is, by financial necessity, Le Cèpe's default offering. Yes, for me he prepared Steak Paul Cézanne, beef slathered with black-olive tapenade and seared au feu de bois so it's red and oh, so-oo juicy, with a black crunchy salty crust that crackles when you bite into it and its blood squirts in your mouth and floods over your tongue--"
After a pause to produce a large red handkerchief and press it to her lips, she concluded in a tone of great conviction: "Le Cèpe is not only a vicious blackmailer, he's a great chef! In la Belle France--oh, I know that plexus of gastronomy has been cast aside and forgotten by many in this time of Prohibition. But it will rise again! In la Belle France renascent, with all gustatory pleasures permitted, Le Cèpe will be feted--yes, feted!--for his manifold culinary talents."
Her audience found this amusing in a sardonic way, but Le Cèpe, visibly moved, struggled to his feet, saying: "Ah, chère amie, how you are kind, and how I am wishing I would make the return to la Belle France!" But no one paid him any attention, all eyes were on Ada.
"Cher ami, I too am so wishing!" she responded, briefly turning to him but continuing to address Madame Cava, "but we cannot do so while Prohibition is law."
Ignoring the renewed laughter, she lowered her voice and continued: "A young man once asked me, 'Why do we have to have Prohibition?' I had no answer. Why? Because there is no answer. We do not have to have Prohibition!"
Madame Cava frowned and, half rising, signaled curtly--shut up! But Ada went on, "Prohibition has outlived its usefulness. It time for--hang on, I'll think of it in a minute--yes I've got it! Repeal!"
Repeal--the word was anathema! After a moment of dead silence, l'Espace Taillevent exploded in angry shouts and gestures. Ada recoiled in confusion--until she received a confidence boost from an unexpected quarter. One of the minor figures of the video up to this point, ostensibly a bodyguard for one of the Departmental PROFATPOL chieftains, suddenly whipped off her reflective sunglasses to reveal the familiar features of Willa 't Hellenbach, media superstar, writer and interviewer extraordinaire! And at the same moment her famous voice filled l'Espace Taillevent: "Yes, Repeal! Yes, I say. Yes! Yes!"
In the sudden silence that followed, Willa leaped lightly up on to the table at Ada's side and leaned toward her supportively, her pointy shark's teeth arranged in a smile that was, as nearly as possible for her, cordial. Ada, startled, froze for an instant. Then the two women joined in a fleeting embrace before turning back to face a stunned Madame Cava and her minions.
"Repeal!" cried Willa, slapping palm to forehead. "Why didn't I think of that! Repeal, there's my book title right there! 'Repeal,' another Pulitzer right there!" And to Ada, "Thank you, Dr Lynch! You are right, Prohibition has outlived its usefulness. It is riddled with corruption. It is due for repeal. As Czarina in the next administration--don't worry, you'll be a shoo-in! I'll plug you on prime-time HV. And your XPROW campaign will surge--under a different name, of course."
"Thanks," Ada cut in, "but I don't give a Gaeadamn! I don't want to be the fracking Czarina! I want only to be with the man I love!"
She might have said more, but Willa, engrossed in the prospect of repeal, had already turned away to pronounce the words that meant doom to a rogue PROFATPOL. Addressing the stunned Madam Cava and chiefs, she announced: "Prohibition will soon be but a memory. It is a law ripe for overturn, a law obsolete in a society now at last accustomed to act in accord with science and reason.... "
No one noticed when Ada turned away, stepped down off the table, and ran to her lover waiting in the shadows of a far corner of l'Espace Taillevent. Only the video noticed.
About the novel
The tentative title of my novel is "A Gourmet in Hyperspace." I am thinking of replacing it with "Yin-Yang in Hyperspace."
The main theme is still Dostoevsky's remark "Man has not yet become accustomed to act in accord with reason and science." This is okay for part 1 but for part 2 I'm thinking of adding another Dostoevsky quote, "Love can save the world." I aim to introduce the cosmic love idea along with Alenby's growing human interest type love for Olympe.
The love quote came to mind after reading muckraking journalist Naomi Kleine's "This changes everything."
The story so far:
In Part 1, Olympe makes sincere but gauche advances to Alenby, and prig that he is, he reacts with indifference. He realizes he has made a mistake after sampling her black & white bean soup served in a visually attractive yin-yang formation, but fails to make amends.
Ada, who 20 years earlier has served as governess to Olympe, has disturbing memories from that time and will have nothing to do with her erstwhile charge. The attentive reader will understand at this point that Olympe was denied loving attention as a child, and perhaps a result of that is having difficulty functioning sexually as an adult.
Ada continues to be disturbed at her inability to answer the question, Why do we have to have to have Prohibition? She has disquieting dreams of being confronted with this question in the course of an interview with Willa t Hellenbach.
Part 2 begins with Alenby incarcerated in Prison Simone Weil. On leaving Prison Simone Weil after serving a 30-day term, Alenby realizes that he has regained his virility. However he declines an invitation to attend a sex orgy in order to present himself to Curnonsky, the Superintendant of Prison Fernand Point. Curnonsky gives Alenby a job as driver on Curnonsky's weekly excursions to provision the prison.
Short of funds, and lacking a vehicle of his own, Alenby go on foot from Château Mourey to and from the prison and the market in Richelieu (both about 20 km each way). In this way, and in laboring in Château Mourey's garden under he genial supervision of the Ch M's factotem Jules César, he becomes physically fit and a proficient distance runner.
Contemplating a mass-suicide event at Prison F Point, Curnonsky looks to Alenby as his successor as Superintendant and leading figure in the hoped-for resurrection of La Belle France, the mythical France of luxurious living and dining. With this motive, he repeatedly invites Alenby into the prison to share a nice lunch. Alenby, knowing that no one who has entered the prison has ever come out alive, repeatedly declines. But he eventually succumbs to temptation, and the prison doors clang shut behind him.
Alenby's detention ends almost immediately. Olympe enters the prison disguised as Soeur Automn, a Priestess of Gaea, and she enables Alenby to escape in a duplicate disguise.
On contemplation [big chunk of the story here], Alenby realizes that he is in love with Olympe.
Ada meanwhile has been chosen by the corrupt PROFATPOL leadership to serve as their spokeswoman in the event of an investigation by the feared journalist Willa 't Hellenbach. Unwilling to go along with this plan, and terrified of debating the formidable Willa 't H, Ada is forced to attend a meeting with Mme Cava and PROFATPOL leaders in Restaurant Le Gardon Frit's L'Espace Taillevent. Provoked, she blurts out why she did not know the answer to the question Why do we have to have Prohibition?: Because there is no answer. We do not have to have Prohibition. Prohibition has served its purpose and must be repealed. Realizing at once that repeal of Prohibition will mean the end of PROFATPOL as well, the audience is enraged to the point of threatening bodily harm, but Ada receives unexpected support from Willa 't Hellenbach herself, who has been present all along in the guise of a PROFATPOL chief's bodyguard.
In the ensuing confusion, Ada quietly leaves in company with her current lover, the porcine chef Le Cèpe.
Unknown to those present at the meeting, the proceedings have been broadcast by You Tube. Alenby and Olympe view the video in real time. Now read on.
2.8.2 Olympe Liberated
Olympe's Apartment, Restaurant Le Gardon
2:00 pm Friday 27 November 1987
After the You Tube video ended, they muted the TV and sat for a long time without speaking, both in their own ways trying to make sense of the events in L'Espace Taillevent.
They paid desultory attention to the TV news updates: The police--the regular police, not PROFATPOL--came in search of the missing couple, and went away empty handed. An ambulance came for Madame Cava, and another for one of the chiefs; both of them stricken, it was rumored, by one or other of the various conditions starting with H, the second letter in CHAOS AND OUCH.
Mixed in with the news, various commentators offered their views on French PROFATPOL (good riddance) and the larger issue of Prohibition (ripe for repeal).
At length Olympe's vex vibrated. It was Cleo, with video updates now: Fantastic number of hits, about to go viral. The fugitive couple had not been caught....
"I never dreamed that so much could happen," said Olympe. "And all in one afternoon!"
"Yes," said Alenby, "it's like a hycell getting to 125 in three. Hard to credit." (By this time Alenby was conversing easily in French, including the intimate sort with tu and toi. Daily contact with Jules César had been useful in this regard.)
"I could hardly bear to watch Le Cèpe's humiliation," Olympe said. "Of course it was his own fault. He shouldn't have allowed himself to get mixed up in the sleazy entrapment business. And he deserved to suffer for forcing me into it as well. But I don't want payback. The important thing--he's gone. Now I'm free to live my own life and work out my own plans for Le Gardon."
"That's all very well and good, but how do you know you're out of his clutches? The dimensionally disadvantaged sultan of the stockpot is still lurking in l'Espace Taillevent, is he not?"
"Oh no," Olympe responded with her easy laugh, "Le Cèpe and Ada will have escaped hours ago--by way of a hidden passage that nobody knew about it but us--Le Cèpe and me, I mean. It's an old dumb waiter sort of thing, leading to what used to be a laundry. Hasn't been used in decades. "
After a pause, she added "Le Cèpe has always dreamed of culinary glory in the style of la Belle France--"
"Like Curnonsky. Perhaps they've already taken refuge in Prison Fernand Point! And, as is well known, no one who entered Prison Fernand Point ever came out alive.
"But how will they manage? Touring the Hexagon--that takes money."
"No problem. Ada has plenty! Oh, didn't you know? I thought...anyway, the Benjamin Franklin C-note she unloaded through Sothebys brought in quite a bundle. According to Le Monde, this 'artifact of deep hyperspace,' as they called it, brought a price not only a record for a single item, but edged out a complete matched set of blue-period Picassos!"
It took some time for Alenby to digest this piece of news and its implications. Eventually he said, "I remember my deal with Ada, swapping my Franklins for her Bollins. Rather deceitful of her, I realized later. But the transaction itself was genuine. The question is, how did they prove my C-note's provenance?"
"The UN secretary general emeritus Aristotle Patras vouched for it, and that doctor at Prison Simone Weil, backed him up in a sworn deposition. It said your brain scans showed noticeable stunting of the pre-frontal cortex, an indication of grossly limited facility in science and reason."
Noticing Alenby's displeasure at the disclosure of his bran scans, Olympe embraced him fondly, though in a sisterly way, and after a pause she added: "It all worked to your advantage. If you didn't know Ada was rich, you probably didn't know that you are also rich. She took a ten percent commission plus expenses, and the rest has been credited to your account. It is as Soeur Automne has already told you--you are a man of means."
Alenby paid little attention to this revelation. Born to the socio-economic elite in the little town now named Pelfcareville, he was used to being a man of means, used to somebody giving him a few million dollars whenever his need was pressing. But Olympe's next words jolted him out of his mood of detachment. "Come, cher ami, to the kitchen. I have prepared Yin-Yang soup."
"Ah, how vividly I remember your Yin-Yang soup," he said, following her into the kitchen. "Pools of chilled black-bean and white-bean soup, neatly nested. Pleasing flavors, too. The white with a soupçon of white truffle, the black with a...tropical fruit?"
"Mango," Olympe confirmed with a smile. "But today, instead of black and white beans, now yellow and red bell peppers. The yellow soup is more like a gold color because I have added turmeric. Sit, please!" She nodded to a small kitchen table on which she had set two places with round soup bowls. She went into a pantry and returned with glass jugs of gold and red soup in either hand. "I have the Yin and the Yang" she said. "Now to the bringing together."
She did it with the ease that comes from long practice. Into each bowl she directed simultaneous streams of gold and red to form the main yin-yang pattern, then switched hands to add to each figure a blob of the opposite color. Finally she rotated the bowls into the orientation that, from each of their viewpoints, placed the gold blob directly above the red.
"Voilà soupe Yin-Yang," she said, and to Alenby's mute enquiry: "The gold represents the feminine principle of reason, the red the masculine principle of science. The enclosing circle is the symbol of love. Without love, reason and science might be dispersed, wasted in pursuit of selfish ends.
She added, in a plangent tone, "Love can save the world."
In unison, they made the sign of the circle, said "bon appétit," picked up their spoons and dug in.
Alenby loved the soup and he loved Olympe, no question on either point. He also felt an inkling of another kind of love. Love in its largest form; love of humanity, love of Gaea, love of the universe u.
2.8.3 Alenby and Olympe Arrested
Restaurant Le Gardon
4 am Saturday 28 November 1987
"Reveille-toi, " Olympe murmured. "It is four o'clock, the moon is down. It is the time of darkness before the dawn. Soon they will come to get us. I do not wish them to enter my home. We will wait outdoors on the terrace."
Alenby stirred unwillingly. Dozing, he found it hard to believe that he, and Olympe as well, were criminals. But he acknowledged that his actions as the Red Baron had given PROFATPOL agents ample justification to arrest him. And undeniably, Olympe was complicit in the crimes of Le Cèpe. Leo was right; they were up humanure creek without a paddle. They had to accept their fate.
Dressed warmly, they went out on to the dimly lit terrace and stood close at the balustrade. Olympe cut the lights, and in the clear stillness of the night they were aware of the loud-flowing Vienne, invisible but for an occasional glint in the starlight. Looking up, Alenby was awe-struck at the sight: thousands of stars glittering like diamonds scattered on on a vast field of black velvet. Stars blazing brighter than he, or perhaps any living person, had ever seen in U.
"E lucevan le stelle," Olympe said quietly.
"E lucevan le stelle," Alenby repeated, and the melody from Tosca soared in his imagination.
"But we will we meet again, and soon!" Olympe said in her warm woodwind tone. "PROFATPOL is a wounded beast. It lacks legal standing to bring felony charges against us. The worst they can do is get us on misdemeanors, up to six months community service. Cleo--she knows a lot, from peeking in people's computers--she thinks they will make you teach driver education at a boys' reformatory. It's at Beaugency. On the Loire, about a hundred kilometers away."
"Yes, I know the area" said Alenby. "Beaugency, not far from St. Dyé." He recalled the place names from his the very first day of his life in u, a day of jumbled impressions: Institute Ducru, the Scottish couriers, Ada's highly original performance of Vaughan Williams' tuba concerto....
"For my part," Olympe continued, "Cleo says Professor Ducru will get me a job as bergère, shepherdess. I will be to bring him up to date on the state of his research sheep flocks. One flock on the Scottish Isle of Skerrick, the other on one of the Argentine islands, the Malvinas.
"The Malvinas? They're still British, aren't they? They had a war, but Argentina lost...."
Olympe found this amusing: "A war? How droll! But in this universe, Argentina said to please give our islands back, and Britain said okay. After that, the people's life went on as before, except they have a different flag, and instead of the fox trot they dance the tango....
"Oh, I've always dreamed of dancing the tango!" she burst out, looking upwards, her face white in the starlight. "C'est une danse sérieuse, sensuelle....
"Cher ami," she went on, her voice trembling. "You know that I am not good at la screwing. I tried to make myself do it, but it didn't work. I have demons, they rise up and make me stiff and cold. But the tango might help me to...you know...."
"To loosen up," said Alenby, unobtrusively tapping his toes in the rhythm of La Cumpasita. "Yes, definitely, we'll tango!" And after a pause he added, "I hear a stinkpot...."
"Yes, they're coming to get us now. When we're free again, we'll meet here, on this terrace. I'll send a sign, on the running path along the Loire. Au revoir."
"I'll look for your sign. Au revoir."
They embraced, and after an uncharacteristically considerate delay the PROFATPOL agent took them into custody.
a 't Hellenbach meanwhile continued: "Prohibition has is a punitive agenda that does not comport with science and reason, and consequently invites disrespect and corruption. Prohibition has become a price-support system for enterprises that are profitable for no other reason than their illegality. Prohibition's aims are good, and it has achieved many of them. It has shielded us from the scourge of CHAOS AND OUCH. It has served to reduce humanity's excessive fertility, with consequent enhancement of women's power and influence in society while helping to contain a potential population explosion. By virtually eliminating the filthy, cruel and uneconomical practice of using animals for food, it has reduced global air pollution by heat-trapping gases by over one-third. And at what cost? At no cost whatever! Because there are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants."