Ishmael: Part Ten



An uncle arrived in town unannounced and expected to be entertained. I thought it would be a day; it turned out to be two and a half. I found myself beaming these thoughts at him: "Isn't it getting to be time for you to move on? Aren't you homesick by now? Wouldn't you rather explore the city on your own? Doesn't it ever occur to you that I might have other things to do?" He was not receptive.

A few minutes before I left to take him to the airport, I got a call and an ultimatum from a client: No more excuses, not one word—do the work now, or send back the advance. I said I'd do the work now. I took my visiting relative to the airport, came back, and sat down at the word processor. It wasn't that big a chore, I told myself—pointless to make a trip downtown just to tell Ishmael I wasn't going to be there for another day or two.

But in the water of my bones and bowels there was a tremor of apprehension.

I pray about teeth—doesn't everyone? I don't have time to floss. You know. Hang in there, I tell them; I'll get around to you before it's too late. But during the second night a molar that was way, way in the back gave up the ghost. The next morning I found a dentist who agreed to take it out and give it a decent burial. In the chair, while he gave me shot after shot and fiddled with his equipment and checked my blood pressure, I found myself thinking, "Look, I don't have time for this—just yank it out and let me go." But he turned out to be right. Oh my, what roots that tooth had—and it seemed to be a lot closer to my spine than my lips. At one point I asked him if it wouldn't be easier to go in from the back.

When it was over, another side of his personality emerged. He became a Tooth Policeman, and I had been well and truly pulled over to the curb. He scolded me, made me feel small, irresponsible, and immature. I nodded and promised and nodded and promised, thinking, Please, Officer, give me one more chance, set me loose on my own recognizance. Eventually he did, but when I got home my hands were shaking and the gauze pads that came out of my jaw weren't pretty. I spent the day gobbling pain-killers and antibiotics and drinking myself silly with bourbon.

In the morning I got back to work, but that tremor of apprehension was still singing in my water.

"One more day," I said to myself. "I'll be able to get this in the mail tonight, and one more day won't matter."

The gambler who puts his last hundred on odd and watches the ball hop decisively into slot 18 will tell you he knew it was a losing bet the instant the chip left his hand. He knew it, felt it. But of course if it had taken one more hop and landed in 19, he would cheerfully admit that such presentiments often prove to be wrong.

Mine was not.

From the head of the hallway, I saw an industrial-sized floor scrubber parked outside Ishmael's half-open door. Before I could get there, a middle-aged man in a gray uniform backed out and started locking up. I called to him to wait.

"What are you doing?" I asked, somewhat inelegantly, when he was in range of a normal tone of voice.

It didn't really deserve an answer, and he didn't give me one.

"Look," I said, "I know it's none of my business, but would you mind telling me what's going on here?"

He looked at me as if I were a roach he was sure he'd killed a week ago. Nonetheless, he finally worked his mouth a bit and let a few words through: "Getting the place ready for a new tenant."

"Ah," I said. "But, uh, what happened to the old tenant?"

He shrugged indifferently. "Got evicted, I guess. Wasn't paying her rent."

"Her rent?" I had momentarily forgotten that Ishmael was not his own caretaker.

He gave me a doubtful look. "Thought you knew the lady."

"No, I knew the uh . . . the uh . . ."

He stood there blinking at me.

"Look," I said again, floundering, "there's probably a note in there for me, or something."

"Ain't nothing' at all in there now, 'cept a bad smell."

"Would you mind if I had a look for myself?"

He turned back to the door and locked it. "You talk to the management about it, okay? I got things to do."


"The management," in the person of a receptionist, couldn't think of any reason why I should be given access to that office or anything else, including information of any kind, on any subject, beyond what I already knew: that the tenant had failed to keep up with the rent and had accordingly been evicted. I tried to unnerve her with a piece of truth, but she rejected scornfully my suggestion that a gorilla had once occupied the premises.

"No such animal has ever been kept—or ever will be kept—on any property managed by this firm."

I told her that she could at least tell me if Rachel Sokolow had been the lessor—what harm could that do?

She said, "That's not the point. If your interest was legitimate, you would already know who the lessor was."

This was not your typical receptionist; if I ever need one of my own, I hope I find one like her.


There were half a dozen Sokolows in the phone, book, but none was named Rachel. There was a Grace, with the right sort of address for the widow of a wealthy Jewish merchant. The next morning, early, I took my car and did a little discreet trespassing to see if the grounds sported a gazebo; they did. I got the car washed, polished my serious shoes, and duster off the shoulders of the one suit I maintain in case of weddings and funerals. Then, to be sure of not running into lunch or tea, I waited until two o'clock to make my appearance.

The Beaux-Arts style isn't to everyone's taste, but I happen to like it when it doesn't confuse itself with a wedding cake. The Sokolow mansion looked cool and majestic yet ever-so-slightly whimsical, like royalty on a picnic. After ringing the bell, I had plenty of time to study the front door, a work of art in its own right, a bronze sculpture depicting the Rape of Europa or the Founding of Rome or some damn thing like that. After a while it was opened by a man I would pick for secretary of state just on the basis of his clothes, his looks, and his bearing. He didn't have to say, "Yeah?" or "Well?" He asked my business just by twitching an eyebrow. I told him I wanted to see Mrs. Sokolow. He asked if I had an appointment, knowing full well that I didn't. I knew this was not a guy I could stiff with a statement that it was a personal matter—meaning, none of his business. I decided to open up a little.

"To tell the truth, I'm trying to get in touch with her daughter."

He gave me a leisurely going-over with his eyes. "You're not a friend of hers," he said at last.

"No, frankly, I'm not."

"If you were, you would know that she died almost three months ago."

His words went through me like a dose of ice water.

He twitched another eyebrow, meaning, "Anything else?"

I decided to open up a little more.

"Were you with Mr. Sokolow?"

He frowned, letting me know that he doubted the relevance of my inquiry.

"The reason I ask is . . . may I ask your name?"

He doubted the relevance of this inquiry as well, but he decided to humor me. "My name is Partridge."

"Well, Mr. Partridge, the reason I ask is, did you know . . . Ishmael?"

He narrowed his eyes at me.

"To be completely truthful with you, I'm not looking for Rachel, I'm looking for Ishmael. I understand that Rachel more or less took charge of him after her father died."

"How do you come to understand that?" he asked, giving away nothing.

"Mr. Partridge, if you know the answer to that, you'll probably help me," I said, "and if you don't know the answer to it, you probably won't."

It was an elegant point, and he acknowledged it with a nod. Then he asked why I was looking for Ishmael.

"He's missing from his . . . usual place. Evidently he was evicted."

"Someone must have moved him. Helped him."

"Yes," I said. "I don't suppose he walked into Hertz and rented a car."

Partridge ignored my witticism. "I honestly don't know anything, I'm afraid."

"Mrs. Sokolow?"

"If she knew anything, I would know it first."

I believed him but said: "Give me a place to start."

"I don't know of any place to start, now. Now that Miss Sokolow is dead."

I stood there for a while, chewing on it. "What did she die of?"

"You didn't know her at all?"

"Not from Adam."

"Then that's really none of your business," he told me, without rancor, just stating a plain fact.


I considered hiring a private investigator. Then I rehearsed in my head the kind of conversation it would take to get started, and decided to skip it. But because I couldn't just up and quit on it, I made a phone call to the local zoo and asked if they happened to have a lowland gorilla in stock. They didn't. I said I happened to have one I needed to get rid of and did they want it, and they said no. I asked if they could suggest someone who might want it, and they said no, not really. I asked them what they'd do if they absolutely had to get rid of a gorilla. They said there might be a laboratory or two that would take it as a specimen, but I could tell they weren't really concentrating.

One thing was obvious: Ishmael had some friends I didn't know about—perhaps former pupils. The only way I could think of to reach them was the way he had probably reached them—through an ad in the personals:

FRIENDS OF ISHMAEL: Another friend has lost
contact. Please call and tell me where he is.

The ad was a mistake, because it gave me an excuse to turn my brain off. I waited for it to appear, then I waited for it to run for a week, then I waited a few more days for a call that didn't come, and in that way two weeks passed during which I didn't lift a finger.

When I finally faced the fact that I wasn't going to get any response to the ad, I had to look for a new heading, and it took me about three minutes to come up with it. I called city hall and was soon talking to the person who would issue a permit to a traveling show if one turned up and wanted to squat on a vacant lot for a week.

Was there one in town at the moment?


Had there been any in the past month?

Yes, the Darryl Hicks Carnival, with nineteen rides, twenty-four games, and a sideshow, had been here and was gone now for a couple weeks or thereabouts.

Anything like a menagerie?

Don't recollect anything like that being listed.

Maybe an animal or two in the sideshow?

Dunno. Possible.

Next stop on its route?'

No idea at all.

It didn't matter. A dozen calls tracked it to a town forty miles north, where it had stayed a week and moved on. Assuming it would keep on moving north, I located its next stop and present location with a single call. And yes, it now boasted of having "Gargantua, the world's most famous gorilla"—a critter that I personally knew had been dead for something like forty years.

For you or anyone with reasonably modern equipment, the Darryl Hicks Carnival would have been ninety minutes away, but for me, in a Plymouth that came out the same year as Dallas, it was two hours. When I got there, it was a carnival. You know. Carnivals are like bus stations: Some are bigger than others, but they're all alike. The Darryl Hicks was two acres of the usual sleaze masquerading as merriment, full of ugly people, noise, and the stink of beer, cotton candy, and popcorn. I waded through it in search of the sideshow.

I have the impression that sideshows as I remember them from boyhood (or maybe from movies in boyhood) are nearly extinct in the modern carnival world; if so, the Darryl Hicks has elected to ignore the trend. When I arrived, a barker was putting a fire-eater through his paces, but I didn't stay to watch. There was plenty to see inside—the usual collection of monsters, freaks, and geeks, a bottle-biter, a pincushion, a tattooed fat lady, all the rest, which I ignored.

Ishmael was in a dim corner as far from the entrance as it was possible to be, with two ten-year-olds in attendance.

"I'll bet he could tear those bars right out if he wanted to," one observed.

"Yeah," said the other. "But he doesn't know that."

I stood there giving him a smoldering look, and he sat there placidly paying no attention to anything until the boys moved off.

As a couple minutes passed, I went on staring and he went on pretending I wasn't there. Then I gave up and said, "Tell me this. Why didn't you ask for help? I know you could have. They don't evict people overnight."

He gave no sign that he'd heard me.

"How the hell do we go about getting you out of here?"

He went on looking through me as if I were just another volume of air.

I said, "Look, Ishmael, are you sore at me or something?"

At last he gave me an eye, but it wasn't a very friendly one. "I didn't invite you to make yourself my patron," he said, "so kindly refrain from patronizing me."

"You want me to mind my own business."

"In a word, yes."

I looked around helplessly. "You mean you actually want to stay here?"

Once again Ishmael's eye turned icy.

"All right, all right," I told him. "But what about me?"

"What about you?"

"Well, we weren't finished, were we."

"No, we weren't finished."

"So what are you going to do? Do I just become failure number five, or what?"

He sat blinking at me sullenly for a minute or two. Then he said, "There is no need for you to become failure number five. We can go on as before."

At this point a family of five strolled up to have a look at the most famous gorilla in the world: mom, dad, two girls, and a toddler comatose in his mother's arms.

"So we can just go on as before, can we?" I said, and not in a whisper. "That strikes you as feasible, does it?"

The family of visitors suddenly found me much more interesting than "Gargantua," who, after all, was just sitting there looking morose.

I said, "Well, where shall we begin? Do you remember where we left off?"

Intrigued, the visitors turned to see what response this would evoke from Ishmael. When it came, of course, only I could hear it:

"Shut up."

"Shut up? But I thought we were going to go on just as before."

With a grunt, he shuffled to the rear of the cage and gave us all a look at his back. After a minute or so the visitors decided I deserved a dirty look; they gave it to me and ambled off to view the mummified body of a man shot to death in the Mojave around the end of the Civil War.

"Let me take you back," I said.

"No thanks," he replied, turning around but not coming back up to the front of the cage. "Incredible as it may seem to you, I would rather live this way than on anyone's largess, even yours."

"It would only be largess until we worked out something else."

"Something else being what? Doing stunts on the Tonight show? A nightclub act?"

"Listen. If I can get in touch with the others, maybe we can work out some kind of joint effort."

"What the devil are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the people who helped you get this far. You didn't do it by yourself, did you?"

He stared at me balefully from the shadows. "Go away," he snarled. "Just go away and leave me alone."

I went away and left him alone.


I hadn't planned for this—or for anything at all, in fact—so I didn't know what to do. I checked into the cheapest motel I could find and went out for a steak and a couple of drinks to think things over. By nine o'clock, I hadn't made any progress, so I went back to the carnival to see what was going on out there. I was in luck, of sorts—a cold front was moving in, and a nasty light rain was sending the merrymakers home with their spirits dampened.

Do you suppose they're still called roustabouts? I didn't ask the one I found closing down the sideshow tent. He looked to be about eighty, and I offered him a ten for the privilege of communing with nature for a while in the person of the gorilla who was no more Gargantua than I was. He didn't appear to consider any of the ethical aspects of the matter but distinctly sneered at the size of the bribe. I added another ten, and he left a light burning by the cage when he hobbled off. There were folding chairs set up on several of the performers' stages, and I dragged one over and sat down.

Ishmael gazed down at me for a few minutes and then asked where we had left off.

"You'd just finished showing me that the story in Genesis that begins with the Fall of Adam and ends with the murder of Abel is not what it's conventionally understood to be by the people of my culture. It's the story of our agricultural revolution as told by some of the earliest victims of that revolution."

"And what remains, do you think?"

"I don't know. Maybe what remains is to bring it all together for me. I don't know what it all adds up to yet."

"Yes, I agree. Let me think for a bit."


"What exactly is culture?" Ishmael asked at last. "As the word is commonly used, not in the special sense we've given it for the purposes of these conversations."

It seemed like a hell of a question to ask someone sitting in a carnival sideshow tent, but I did my best to give it some thought. "I'd say it's the sum total of everything that makes a people a people."

He nodded. "And how does that sum total come into existence?"

"I'm not sure what you're getting at. It comes into existence by people living."

"Yes, but sparrows live, and they don't have a culture."

"Okay, I see what you mean. It's an accumulation. The sum total is an accumulation ."

"What you're not telling me is how the accumulation comes into being."

"Oh, I see. Okay. The accumulation is the sum total that is passed from one generation to the next. It comes into being when . . . When a species attains a certain order of intelligence, the members of one generation begin to pass along information and techniques to the next. The next generation takes this accumulation adds its own discoveries and refinements, and passes the total on to the next."

"And this accumulation is what is called culture."

"Yes, I'd say so."

"It's the sum total of what's passed along, of course, not just information and techniques. It's beliefs, assumptions, theories, customs, legends, songs, stories, dances, jokes, superstitions, prejudices, tastes, attitudes. Everything."

"That's right."

"Oddly enough, the order of intelligence needed for the accumulation to begin is not terribly high. Chimpanzees in the wild are already passing along tool-making and tool-using behaviors to their young. I see that this surprises you."

"No. Well . . . I guess I'm surprised that you cite chimpanzees."

"Instead of gorillas?"

"That's right."

Ishmael frowned. "To tell the truth, I have deliberately avoided all field studies of gorilla life. It is a subject I find I do not care to explore."

I nodded, feeling stupid.

"In any case, if chimpanzees have already begun to accumulate knowledge about what works well for chimpanzees, when do you suppose people began to accumulate knowledge about what works well for people?"

"I'd have to assume it began when people began."

"Your paleoanthropologists would agree. Human culture began with human life, which is to say with Homo habilis. The people who were Homo habilis passed along to their children all they'd learned, and as each generation contributed its mite, there was an accumulation of this knowledge. And who were the heirs to this accumulation?"

"Homo erectus?"

"That's right. And the people who were Homo erectus passed along this accumulation generation after generation, each adding its mite to the whole. And who were the heirs to this accumulation?"

"Homo Sapiens."

"Of course. And the heirs of Homo sapiens were the people of Homo sapiens sapiens, who passed along this accumulation generation after generation, each adding its mite to the whole. And who were the heirs to this accumulation?"

"I'd have to say that the various peoples of the Leavers were the heirs."

"Not the Takers? Why is that?"

"Why is that? I don't know. I'd say it's because . . . Obviously there was a total break with the past at the time of the agricultural revolution. There was no break with the past in the various peoples who were migrating to the Americas at this time. There was no break with the past in the various peoples who inhabited New Zealand or Australia or Polynesia."

"What makes you say that?"

"I don't know. It's my impression."

"Yes, but what's the basis for the impression?"

"I think it's this. I don't know what story all these people are enacting, but I can see that they're all enacting the same one. I can't spell the story out as yet, but it's clearly there—in distinction to the story the people of my culture are enacting. Wherever we encounter them, they're always doing much the same sort of thing, always living much the same sort of life—just the way that wherever we encounter us, we're always doing much the same sort of thing, always living much the same sort of life."

"But what's the connection between this and the transmittal of that cultural accumulation that mankind made during the first three million years of human life?"

I thought about it for a couple minutes, then said, "This is the connection. The Leavers are still passing that accumulation along in whatever form it came to them. But we're not, because ten thousand years ago the founders of our culture said, `This is all shit. This is not the way people should live,' and they got rid of it. They obviously did get rid of it, because by the time their descendants step into history there's no trace of the attitudes and ideas you encounter among Leaver peoples everywhere. And then too . . ."


"This is interesting. I've never noticed this before . . . . Leaver peoples are always conscious of having a tradition that goes back to very ancient times. We have no such consciousness. For the most part, we're a very `new' people. Every generation is somehow new, more thoroughly cut off from the past than the one that came before."

"What does Mother Culture have to say about this?"

"Ah," I said, and closed my eyes. "Mother Culture says that this is as it should be. There's nothing in the past for us. The past is dreck. The past is something to be put behind us, something to be escaped from."

Ishmael nodded. "So you see: This is how you came to be cultural amnesiacs."

"How do you mean?"

"Until Darwin and the paleontologists came along to tack three million years of human life onto your history, it was assumed in your culture that the birth of man and the birth of your culture were simultaneous events—were in fact the same event. What I mean is that the people of your culture thought that man was born one of you. It was assumed that farming is as instinctive to man as honey production is to bees."

"Yes, that's the way it seems."

"When the people of your culture encountered the hunter-gatherers of Africa and America, it was thought that these were people who had degenerated from the natural, agricultural state, people who had lost the arts they'd been born with. The Takers had no idea that they were looking at what they themselves had been before they became agriculturalists. As far as the Takers knew, there was no `before.' Creation had occurred just a few thousand years ago, and Man the Agriculturalist had immediately set about the task of building civilization."

"Yes, that's right."

"Do you see how this came about?"

"How what came about?"

"How it came about that the memory loss of your own prerevolutionary period was total—so total that you didn't even know it existed."

"No, I don't. I feel like I should, but I don't."

"It was your observation that what Mother Culture teaches is that the past is dreck, is something to be hurried away from."


"And the point I'm making is that apparently this is something she's been teaching you from the very beginning."

"Yes, I see. It's coming together for me now. I was saying that among the Leavers you always have the sense of a people with a past extending back to the dawn of time. Among the Takers you have the sense of a people with a past extending back to 1963."

Ishmael nodded, but then went on: "At the same time, it should be noted that ancientness is a great validator among the people of your culture—so long as it's restricted to that function. For example, the English want all their institutions—and all the pageantry surrounding those institutions—to be as ancient as possible (even if they're not). Nevertheless, they themselves don't live as the ancient Britons lived, and haven't the slightest inclination to do so. Much the same can be said of the Japanese. They esteem the values and traditions of wiser, nobler ancestors and deplore their disappearance, but they have no interest in living the way those wiser, nobler ancestors lived. In short, ancient customs are nice for institutions, ceremonies, and holidays, but Takers don't want to adopt them for everyday living."



"But of course it was not Mother Culture's teaching that everything from the past was to be discarded. What was to be saved? What in fact was saved?"

"I would say it was information about how to make things, about how to do things."

"Anything related to production was definitely saved. And that's how things came to be this way."


"Of course the Leavers save information about production too, though production for its own sake is rarely a feature of their lives. Among the Leavers, people don't have weekly quotas of pots to make or arrowheads to turn out. They're not preoccupied with stepping up their production of hand-axes."


"So, although they save information about production, most of the information they save is about something else. How would you characterize that information?"

"I'd say you gave away the answer to that question a few minutes ago. I'd say it comes to what works well for them."

"For them? Not for everyone?"

"No. I'm not an anthropology buff, but I've read enough of it to know that the Zuni don't think their way is the way for everyone, and that the Navajo don't think their way is the way for everyone. Each of them has a way that works well for them. "

"And that way that works well for them is what they teach their children."

"Yes. And what we teach our children is how to make things. How to make more things and better things."

"Why don't you teach them what works well for people?"

"I'd say it's because we don't know what works well for people. Every generation has to come up with its own version of what works well for people. My parents had their version, which was pretty well useless, and their parents had their version, which was pretty well useless, and we're currently working on our version, which will probably seem pretty well useless to our own children."


"I've let the conversation stray from its course," Ishmael said grumpily and shifted to a new position, rocking the wagon on its springs. "What I wanted you to see is that each Leaver culture is an accumulation of knowledge that reaches back in an unbroken chain to the beginning of human life. This is why it's no great wonder that each of them is a way that works well. Each has been tested and refined over thousands of generations."

"Yes. Something occurs to me."

"Go ahead."

"Give me a minute. This has something to do with . . . the unavailability of knowledge about how people ought to live."

"Take your time."

"Okay," I said a few minutes later. "Back at the beginning, when I said that there was no such thing as certain knowledge about how people ought to live, what I meant was this: Certain knowledge is knowledge of the one right way. That's what we want. That's what Takers want. We don't want to know a way to live that works well. We want to know the one right way. And that's what our prophets give us. And that's what our lawgivers give us. Let me think about this . . . After five or eight thousand years of amnesia, the Takers really didn't know how to live. They really must have turned their backs on the past, because all of a sudden, here comes Hammurabi, and everyone says, `What are these?' and Hammurabi says, `These, my children, are laws!' `Laws? What are laws?' And Hammurabi says, `Laws are things that tell you the one right way to live.' What am I trying to say?"

"I'm not sure."

"Maybe it's this. When you started talking about our cultural amnesia, I thought you were being metaphorical. Or maybe exaggerating a little to make a point. Because obviously you can't know what those neolithic farmers were thinking. Nevertheless, here's the fact: After a few thousand years, the descendants of these neolithic farmers were scratching their heads and saying, `Gee, I wonder how people ought to live.' But in that very same time period, the Leavers of the world hadn't forgotten how to live. They still knew, but the people of my culture had forgotten, had cut themselves off from a tradition that told them how to live. They needed a Hammurabi to tell them how to live. They needed a Draco and a Solon and a Moses and a Jesus and a Muhammad. And the Leavers didn't, because they had a way—had a whole bunch of ways—that . . . Hold on. I think I've got it."

"Take your time."

"Every one of the Leavers' ways came into being by evolution, by a process of testing that began even before people had a word for it. No one said, `Okay, let's form a committee to write up a set of laws for us to follow.' None of these cultures were inventions. But that's what all our lawgivers gave us—inventions. Contrivances. Not things that had proved out over thousands of generations, but rather arbitrary pronouncements about the one right way to live. And this is still what's going on. The laws they make in Washington aren't put on the books because they work well—they're put on the books because they represent the one right way to live. You may not have an abortion unless the fetus is threatening your life or was put there by a rapist. There are a lot of people who'd like to see the law read that way. Why? Because that's the one right way to live. You may drink yourself to death, but if we catch you smoking a marijuana cigarette, it's the slammer for you, baby, because that's the one right way. No one gives a damn about whether our laws work well. Working well is beside the point . . . . Again, I'm not sure what I'm getting at."

Ishmael grunted. "You're not necessarily getting at one specific thing. You're exploring a deep complex of ideas, and you can't expect to get to the bottom of it in twenty minutes."


"However, there is a point I set out to make here before we go on to other things, and I would like to make it."


"You see now that the Takers and the Leavers accumulate two entirely different kinds of knowledge."

"Yes. The Takers accumulate knowledge about what works well for things. The Leavers accumulate knowledge about what works well for people."

"But not for all people. Each Leaver people has a system that works well for them because it evolved among them; it was suited to the terrain in which they lived, suited to the climate in which they lived, suited to the biological community in which they lived, suited to their own peculiar tastes, preferences, and vision of the world."


"And this kind of knowledge is called what?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Someone who knows what works well for people has what?"

"Well . . . wisdom?"

"Of course. Now, you know that the knowledge of what works well for production is what's valued in your culture. In the same way, the knowledge of what works well for people is what's valued in Leaver cultures. And every time the Takers stamp out a Leaver culture, a wisdom ultimately tested since the birth of mankind disappears from the world beyond recall, just as every time they stamp out a species of life, a life form ultimately tested since the birth of life disappears from the world beyond recall."

"Ugly," I said.

"Yes," Ishmael said. "It is ugly."


After a few minutes of head-scratching and earlobe-tugging, Ishmael sent me away for the night.

"I'm tired," he explained. "And I'm too cold to think."