MELVILLE’S GHOST

MELVILLE’S GHOST

I was chosen to beard this particular little ferret because I’m known as a sensible Senator, unafraid to cross the aisle if it seems the best thing to do for the country. When you’ve lived in D.C. as long as I have, you not only know where the bones are buried, you know who buried them. This, of course, is information I rarely use because I don’t have to: my reputation preceeds.

For all my experience, however, I was nonplussed to be asked to meet at the Viet Nam War Memorial. There are wonderful hotels, private rooms, restaurants, apartments, offices where this interview could have taken place. Not to mention the ability to communicate in text or on-line, or even just by telephone. To be out-of-doors, recognizable (I, not he), seemed ill-advised, especially with carry laws crossing state boundaries now so easily.

At first I failed to find him. The day was warm, even for November. The election reverberated in the clear autumn air.

There was nothing to do but start down a walkway, ignoring the golden letters to my left, until I reached the turn around at the bottom and began to scale upwards, letters on my left still. It was on this return journey that I saw the purposely unshaven profile, glasses atop his nose, round cheeks sucked in for some reason, as if in deep thought. He did not turn to look at me or to greet me.

We stood side-by-side for a moment in silence. “Grover,” said I purposely.

He did not turn.

“Grover,” I spoke again. “We lost, you know.”

No response.

“You have to release all of us.”

“I would prefer not to,” he said in a monotone.

“Explain to me, please, why.”

He did turn to look at me briefly. I was shocked. His ordinarily round and pasty features that sat atop his presumably unexercised body had morphed into those of a hungry chicken wearing glasses. I half expected his head to bob.

“I would prefer not to.”

“Grover, this may be a matter of national health, of national wealth and progress. We cannot go on this way, and the voters seem disinclined to support those of us who did sign your pledge. You must release us for the good of the country.”

“I would prefer not to.”

“But what do you do with these agreements? How can you hold us to them without having anything to show for them? We lost, Grover, we lost. We need to clear the air in order even to have a chance of returning to power.”

He would not reply.

“Grover, who made you the guardian of a Congress’s financial morality? Who do you think you are? Just answer that.”

“I would prefer not to.”

“Who are you, Grover? Whence did you come? What do you want?”

No response.

“Grover!” I was frustrated. “This cannot go on! Either act or disappear.”

“I would prefer not to.”

“Well, then,” I said, trying one more time to sound reasonable, “someone, a committee, a block, perhaps even the whole party, will have to announce it is no longer held by this ridiculous pledge. You’ll be embarrassed. Shamed. Wherever you came from is where you will return. You’ll be merely a footnote in a complicated, unhappy story. Is that what you want?”

“I would prefer not to.”

“Preference be damned, Grover!” I shouted, ignoring the stares of children, parents, scouts, veterans around me. “Do it or disappear!”

“I would prefer not to.”

But that, alas, is what did in fact happen. Grover’s New England certainty, his tiny darting eyes, his half-shaved face, his flat and sometimes angry tone, evanesced. Never again did we hear of his whereabouts, his preferences.

Ah Grover! Ah humanity!

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