Monday, April 28, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 19

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17 Part 18

The following Sunday, the 10th of June, at about 1:43 PM, Spilman was with Ted in the Green Park, the two of them just relaxing and enjoying a beautiful rare sunny day, when Spilman saw the two men who'd chased him Tuesday night and a couple of nights since. People who'd spent the morning in church were strutting their fine church duds; people who'd been drinking the night before had mostly recovered from their hangovers; people such as Spilman and Ted who'd done neither had been soaking in the beautiful weather since early that morning; and now those two clowns appeared on a bench a hundred yards away or so, clearly watching Spilman and pretending not to, like a very sour note in the lovely symphony which this afternoon had been. Not entirely unexpected sour notes, though. Since Tuesday night Spilman had been enjoying Ted's company more often than usual. Charlie wasn't with them today. He and Latham and many other autistics found the bright sunlight much more harsh than delightful, and were staying indoors. It was the first time since Tuesday Spilman and Ted'd been out together without Charlie; it was the first time Spilman had seen the two heavies in the daytime, the first time he had seen them while Ted was near, and the first time he saw them and felt no need to run. He slapped Ted's knee, nodded in their direction and said, "That's them."

"The two fellows who've been bovering you?"

"Hm-mm."

"Oy. You do mean the two jokers wif matching hats and -- "

"Yes, and matching jackets, and, uh..."

"Yeah, entire matching outfits, they dress in matching outfits a lot."

"You know them?"

"Oy."

"Two of us?"

"Oy, I am very sad to say. I mean, look at them. Is there anything in the world more conspicuous than matching outfits on large grown men? I imagine they were wearing matching outfits too the other times they was chasing you?"

"Yes."

"Disgraceful. Just what you want when you're trying to sneak up on somebody: look like a cricket team. I thought we had some standards. I mean, we don't trust Charlie wif any political business -- you know what I mean. I love the sod, but -- "

" -- Yes, I know exactly what you mean, Charlie's got no sense of what needs to be secret, so we can't trust him with any of our many secrets. It's nothing against him, he's just different. What are they, brothers? I'm simply trying to understand the matching outfits."

"Nah."

"Lovers, perhaps?"

"Uhhh... Hah. Hadn't thought of that. No, I don't think so. I think they're just mates, and more than a bit thick. Some pairs of eight-year-old boys'll dress alike, given the opportunity. If they're not particularly bright eight-year-old boys. These two donkeys shouldn't be entrusted with secrets any more than Charlie -- in my opinion. Others clearly see if differently -- and neither one a them ever fixed a watch or a sparrow's nest. Oy!" Ted shouted. His voice boomed and echoed and many people startled, including the two identically-dressed men on the other bench watching them and pretending not to. "Yes, we can see you just fine, can ya see us awright?" They gestured frantically for Ted to be quiet. "What's that? Lower? Awright!" Ted shouted, then shifted from his natural booming baritone to an even more penetrating, deafening false basso profundo, and shouted, "I said we can see you just fine from over here, can you see us awright!" He shifted back to his natural voice and shouted, "Come on over then, we got some stuff to diiscuss, the four of us. No? You don't want to come over? Fine. I'll ask you anyway: why've you two idiots been trying to kill my friend?!" Gasps and half-shrieks were audible from bystanders, and the two in matching Sunday finery were scurrying over to where Ted and Spilman sat.

When they were near Ted snarled, "Siddown," and nodded down at the bench he and Spilman were occupying. It was not a large bench, Ted was sitting at one end, one of the large smashed-faced fellows brushed against Spilman as he sat down, but this time Spilman didn't feel the slightest bit alarmed. "Two on two now," Ted said, "fair fight. Wanna give it a go now? No? Then tell me just what in the sodding Hell has gotten into the two of you. Oh, by the way, don't wear matching outfits when you want to sneak up on somebody. We both agree, it's about as conspicuous as can be. But you were about to explain yourselves."

"E's not yr friend, Ted."

"E is, for a number of years now, and a good and trustworthy soul."

"Bollocks!" said the one of them who'd been talking, the one seated next to Spilman, and he pulled on Spilman's watch chain, pulled the Waltham 1883 out of Spilman's vest pocket, shook it at Ted and demanded, "What do you say to that?!" Spilman took this quite calmly.

Ted replied, "I say you should leave talking in riddles to people much more clever than you."

The man shoved the watch back into Spilman's pocket and asked, "Ya remember Smif? Dark-haired fellow, bit of a weight problem, worked as a clerk over at Parliament, liked to dress a bit flashy, liked to drink a bit of whisky, liked the ladies maybe even a bit more than most -- "

"Yeah yeah I know the guy, but why are you asking me whether I 'remember' him? Somefing happen to him?"

"Ask your 'friend.'"

"What'd I just finish tellin' you about talking in riddles?"

"Nobody I know has seen Smif since about a month ago when some coppers chased im through Waterloo Station."

"That big ruckus in Waterloo Station was over Smif?"

"Yeah."

"Dint know it was Smif they was chasin."

"It was Smif. Chased im but dint catch im. Minutes after that, Inspector Raymond's on the case, lookin round the station. You know Raymond."

"All four of us know Raymond."

The man paused, it really seemed as if he needed a while to count how many of them there were on the bench. Spilman and Ted exchanged a glance, Ted with his palms raised in entreaty toward Heaven. The man continued, "Apparently Raymond was trying to find Smif before someone else did and help him disappear. But it seems someone else found poor Smif first."

"Bill, I swear by our dear beloved semi-reactionary Queen, if I have to tell you one more time about talking in riddles."

"The last time anybody saw Smif he was wearing that watch." Bill poked the Waltham 1883 in Spilman's pocket several times.

"Don't touch him again."

"E was wearing that watch," Bill said. "And your 'friend' ere, the high and mighty Mr Spilman, who acts and talks like a gentleman but is just as much a dirty Cockney as you or me, started wearin Smif's watch the day Smif disappeared."

"Bill, to call you a sodding moron would be an insult to sodding morons everywhere. That's not Smif's watch. Charlie Evans just happened to be on the platform when Smif was chased through it."

"The famous idiot."

"Bill, I swear to God, I will kill you just for exercise, and then I'll kill your only friend George just for spite. Shut up now. Spilman here is my friend. Charlie is too. And you're a famous idiot. Charlie's daffy about watches. Can spot one a hundred yards away in the dark for half a second and tell you the brand and model. E saw Smif's watch. My other good friend Albert Latham -- "

"Yeah, the, uh... Charlie Evans works for the Lathams now," George piped up. "They make those posh watches."

"I have worked for the Lathams for a long time, Albert Latham is my boss and also my very good friend. I swear to Christ, shut up, the pair of ya, shut up and listen for once in yr lives, ya... The police called Latham in to talk to Charlie about Smif's watch. That's how Latham met Charlie. Latham brought several watches like the one Smif was wearing, so that Charlie could point out the one looked most like it. He gave that one to the police, and he still had the others in is pocket when he happened to meet Spilman ere later the same day, who happened to be looking for a decent watch, and so Latham gave im..." Now Ted pulled the Waltham out of Spilman's pocket by its chain "...this one. I didn't know Smith'd gotten into trouble."

"I had no idea the man they were looking for there was one of us, was your friend," Spilman said to Bill and George. "I'm sorry."

"Fanks," Bill said. "Sorry about trying to arm you. Bit of a fuck-up there, no doubt."

"Oh, please don't give it another thought," Spilman replied, "it could've happened to anyone."

"Fanks," Bill said, and George nodded his wide-eyed thanks. Neither gave the slightest sign of having detected the sarcasm in Spilman's reassurance.

"I'm sorry about Smif too," Ted said. "I hope he's awright. Good that Raymond was on the case so quickly, I'm sure that gave Smif a better chance. But look, the two of ya. This is a perfect example of why you should talk to other people and get their advice first, before you go off on your own and try to settle things. Was anybody else at all aware of your plans to do Spilman in?"

The two of them were staring at the ground, they couldn't meet Ted's gaze. Bill just shook his head.

"Well I'm not surprised. I'm very disappointed in the two of ya, but I'm not surprised. Did ya learn somethin here? Please tell me ya learned something."

"Ahh," Bill said, and cleared his throat, and said, "talk to somebody first," still staring shamefacedly at the ground.

"Oy. Very good. Now sod off and let me and me friend enjoy this lovely afternoon."

They mumbled several more "sorry"s and shambled off. For a long time Spilman shifted his gaze back and forth between Bill and George walking away, and Ted watching them retreat with his lower jaw thrust out in annoyance. Finally Ted said, "They aven't learned a fucking thing. They never learn anything. They're a perfect example of good intentions paving the road to Ell. What donkey ever initiated them to be two of us?"

"I had no idea that man with all the coppers chasing him through Waterloo Station was a friend of yours. It made the papers: a mysterious chase, and none of the police would talk about it."

"Yeah. Yeah. I had no idea it was Smif. Poor sod, hope he's okay now. More of just an acquaintance to me. Bit of a silly fucker, the way he dandied up like a peacock. For the ladies, just as Bill said. I think maybe the ladies would've liked him more if he'd worried less about is clothes and done a few sit-ups now and then instead. Eh. That depends on which ladies it is, I suppose. Maybe Smif was actually onto something."

"So why was he in trouble?"

"Sod me if I know. Fucked a big shot's wife or daughter, maybe? I've no idea."

"Huh."

"What is it?" Ted asked.

"Raymond's been behaving very strangely lately."

"Yeah, I've noticed that too. So what?"

"Mm... I don't know what. Seems like I had half a clue about something there for a second, and then I lost it again."

"Well, if it's important, chances are it'll come to you again. Sometimes you figure something out as soon as you stop trying to, know what I mean? Tell you what, Spilman, whyn't we have a beer to celebrate your aving cheated yet another completely senseless death."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Christian Canonization And Ancient Roman Deification

There's been a lot of discussion lately of Christian borrowings of pagan symbols, holidays, institutions, concepts, etc -- some of it interesting and actually informative, a lot of just one more tired, uninteresting, juvenile, inaccurate New Atheist game of "gotcha!" wherein the players, who would much rather score points than be right, take a kernel of scholarly information and carry it far, far into Absurdistan -- and of course there's also been a lot of discussion of today's canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, but it wasn't until this morning that I started to wonder how many similarities there might be between ancient Roman deification and Christian beatification.

First, let me reassure those of you who are sensible enough to have been disenchanted by New Atheist ravings -- and surely there are a lot of us -- that, although they never miss a chance to blow something out of proportion, there actually are many pagan holdovers in Christianity. For example and apropos of today, when two Popes are being canonized, the title pontifex maximus, which means "great bridge-builder," was applied to a Roman religious official long before Christianity existed, so long that we cannot say when it originated, its origins fading into the mists of fable. The Tiber river winds through the ancient part of Rome and also provided a crucial defensive barrier outside the city, so it's not so odd that the office of bridge-builder came to be seen as sacred. Yeah, so anyway, Christians didn't invent the title of Pontiff, which was held by many prominent Romans including Julius Caesar and almost all of the Western Emperors until Theodosius the Great, who ruled from 379 to 395, transferred the title to the Bishop of Rome. Which means that I've been talking a bunch of nonsense when I've been telling people that the Roman Pontiff didn't attend the Council of Nicea, because the Bishop of Rome wasn't yet the Pontiff. Constantine, who was Emperor of both the Eastern and the Western Empire when the Council took place in 325, was the Pontiff. (I've also been wrong when I've told them that the Pope wasn't there, because the title "Pope" didn't yet refer exclusively to the Bishop of Rome. But the bishop of Roman wasn't there, and he wasn't thick as thieves with the man who moved the capital 1000 miles away from his diocese.)

It strikes me that monotheism and polytheism may not be as entirely different form each other as they sometimes seem, especially when we consider angels and demons and saints. Do they not play roles in monotheism similar to those of gods in polytheism? The similarity is particularly striking today: two Pontiffs are being canonized. In pagan Rome, many Emperors, who were also Pontiffs, were deified upon their deaths.

It's difficult to research this, the search being cluttered not only by hate-filled New Atheists yelling Aha! Gotcha! They stole it all! but also by hate-filled Protestants making the equation Catholic=idolators and pagans=Satan=pure evil. A pox on both of those houses, and a hearty welcome to everyone who wants to learn and not hate. I don't share one bit of the religious fervor of many Catholics about this day, but I feel much closer to them than to all the stupid raving haters.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 18

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17

At about 3 minutes before midnight the following Tuesday, the 5th of June, Spilman was wearing the watch Latham had given him early in May. Spilman hadn't reset the watch since Latham had given it to him, and it was currently about 40 seconds fast. Which meant that Spilman didn't know how accurately it was running. All he knew is that it was within 2 or 3 minutes of spot on, without his having adjusted it for a month, and that that was amazing by his standards, and that Latham was a genius whom he was very fortunate to know. And that Latham shared the same condition with Charlie, although he'd been able to hide it from everyone but some of his family and a Swiss doctor with whom he corresponded about it. Latham insisted upon referring to what he and Charlie had as a condition, and was quite distressed, Spilman could tell, whenever anyone referred to it as a disorder. Apparently Charlie's abilities in some ways quite dwarfed Latham's which, in Spilman's view, certainly bolstered Latham's case for not thinking of it as a disorder. Latham also referred to it as a mutation. Although the term held some horror for the uninitiated general public, Latham assured Spilman that mutation could be either good or bad -- although that itself was a subjective call -- and that if it had not been for mutations we would all still be one-celled organisms living primarily upon our own excrement, if, that is, life had ever begun at all.

With some effort Spilman refocused his attention upon the task at hand: interviewing the butler of a Tory MP who for years had been spying as much as he possibly could upon his master, for the sake of their friends. The interview was pretty much wound up, Spilman had filled quite a few notebook pages -- how had he ever lived before Freddie had started giving him these posh notebooks and pens? So many cleverly-made things in this world, kept -- for the most part -- so greedily by a few away from the many, so that most people really didn't even know what they were missing.

The butler had himself made a few notes, to which he'd referred while briefing Spilman. "Okay," Spilman said, and pointed at the butler's little pile of scraps of paper," "I'll have those, too."

"Oh," the butler said, "why?"

"Why?" Spilman replied. "Why do you want to keep them? As souvenirs, perhaps?" The butler said nothing and merely looked nonplussed. "I'm going to take them from you because they're very dangerous to you, for one thing. I'm going to go through them once to check against my own notes, and then I'm going to destroy them." He took the pile and stuffed them into the convenient pocket at the back of the notebook, one of the countless things, pockets like these in notebooks, which the rich took for granted and the poor knew nothing about. "And if I'm in danger of being apprehended myself, I'll throw this whole lot away," he said, holding up the notebook, "Even though I've worked very hard for weeks to get it two-thirds full of notes or so, because this is all very dangerous. Perhaps, if we and people like us are very successful, in a couple of decades we'll be able to keep souvenirs of our work and write our memoirs and be hailed as heroes. For the nonce we're still criminals."

"Are you actually in danger of being apprehended?" the butler asked as they stepped into the alley from the room, attached to a warehouse in Lambeth, which they and their friends occasionally met in when they wanted privacy. The butler had a key to the place; he locked up behind them.

"One never knows. Oh, I'm so sorry, I almost forgot." Spilman handed a page torn from the notebook to the butler, with the name and address of a physician on it. "The man I mentioned. Take that boy from your household to him. My mind's all over the place. If it is pneumonia, God forbid, this man can help the child."

"Thank you. Thank you very much."

"Of course. Whatever are we here for if not for children like him? Just dress the tyke up like a little scion of our betters, and keep him from speaking, and I think you'll have no trouble passing yourselves off as a gentleman and his son. That'll get you past his receptionist and into his examining room, and then you can both be who you are. Don't worry about his nurse, the man's also one of us. And of course there'll be no charge."

"I say, I'm not a pauper, I can pay to visit a doctor."

"I swear to God, my friend," Spilman exclaimed, "for someone dedicated to breaking society's shackles you never seem to pass up an opportunity to lock yourself in them."

"I want to do my part."

"You do your part and several other people's. You work in a fine house, it's true, and get some fine scraps thrown your way, but all you have as your own is a nasty little room. This doctor has a very large house not far from where you work. He wants to do his part as well. Let him."

As he walked back home Spilman did his very best to look in all directions all the time without appearing to and to keep his ears sharp. He hadn't wanted to let it show to his friend, but as a matter of fact, he was a little more anxious than usual about being waylayed, and searched, and maybe killed. Earlier that evening he'd just seen a pair of thugs coming at him, seen them just soon enough to be able to run away. They'd both been very big, both had fit bodies and smashed-up faces. Boxers, or maybe just fighters away from the realm of sport. Spilman was not an exceptional fighter but he was a positively extraordinary runner. After about a mile the two men had given up, and one of them had yelled after him, "That's it, you rat fucker, keep running. We know where you live."

"So do a lot of my friends," Spilman shouted back.

"You don't ave as many friends as you think!" the voice had retorted as it receded in the dark: they'd stopped running, Spilman hadn't yet. At the time he hadn't thought much of the man's remarks, thinking it was only talk. If talking decided fights, a great many fights would've turned out entirely differently. At first he'd thought the man had called him a rat only to signify that Spilman was a small and loathesome creature. But then it occurred to him that "rat" was a piece of American slang, which had begun to cross the Atlantic, for "traitor." Saying he was a traitor would match up with saying that some people were no longer his friends. Of course, doing what he did, there was always going to be a certain amount of confusion among a certain number of people about what exactly he was up to and whose side he was on. And he had been running away from people threatening him harm on a regular basis since he'd been a small fleet-footed boy. Still, he couldn't entirely shake the thought that perhaps something unusually bad had happened, that some of his friends actually did think he'd betrayed them somehow, that perhaps they'd even sent those men to injure or even kill him, all because of some misunderstanding, or maybe because of a lie from an actual traitor. Spilman told himself not to be silly, not to scare himself for no reason. But he couldn't quite shake it. A chill had settled into him.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 17

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16

After they'd crossed the bridge they cut through St James' Park, the Green Park and Hyde Park to arrive at St Mary's Hospital where a certain highly-recommended doctor awaited them. His office, one floor up from street level, was spacious and filled with books. Large windows showed old oaks changing from buds to leaves. They both went into the doctor's office, Ted didn't wait outside. Since Albert Latham had announced that his neurological system was very similar to Charlie's, transparency had become the word of the day regarding that neurological condition: it was not to be kept secret, it was to be publicly discussed, and doctors were to meet with neither of them alone. Ever. It seemed clear to Ted that Albert feared some danger that lurked in his and Charlie's condition being treated or examined or discussed in secret or in private. Even Albert's habits of rocking and moaning and doing other odd things when he got agitated, very similar to Charlie's way of doing it -- even these things, Albert now sometimes did in front of other people, mannerisms which, he had publicly announced, he had spent a lifetime hiding from others. Sometimes. And sometimes Albert would start to rock and moan or clutch his head or wring his hands in front of others, and then suddenly run off -- presumably to finish doing what he needed to do in private, as he'd been accustomed to do.

Some doctors had refused to see Charlie other than one-on-one, but there were plenty of other doctors interested in him, and even some of the doctors who at first hadn't gone along with the as-public-as-possible nature of the whole case relented so as not to be left behind.

This doctor -- Ted had heard the man's name not for the first time today when they introduced each other, and forgotten it already, the doctors were beginning to become something of a blur for him -- asked them to please be seated in some of the office's rather abundant armchairs. Ted complied, Charlie cast a nervous glance at Ted, and Ted said to the doctor, "It's sometimes very difficult for Charlie to stay seated. It may seem to you that you don't have his full attention if he's wandering around the office and looking at everything but you, but believe me, the interview will go better than if he's sitting and can't think of anything but how uncomfortable he is sitting."

"It's true," Charlie chimed in. "It's a bit strange, but I'd be very grateful for your understanding." Charlie had found, with Albert's guidance, that phrases such as admitting that certain things were strange and saying he'd be grateful for someone's understanding were very helpful when meeting people for the first time. At seemed to help everyone to be more at ease. The doctor's books were fascinating. Charlie had seen so many books in so many different luxurious rooms lately.

"Of course," the doctor replied. "And I understand that an actual physical examination will not occur today, that it's to be an interview only, am I correct?"

"Yes," Ted said.

"Yes, thank you for understanding, doctor," Charlie said.

"Of course," the doctor replied.

Charlie strode over to one of the large windows, just outside of which a female robin was jumping back and forth between two branches of an oak and chattering agitatedly. "She's lost her babies," Charlie said, pointing to the bird. "She had a nest right there on one of those branches, I don't know whether or not the eggs had hatched yet, but now they're gone, the whole nest is gone somehow, something happened to it, and she's very sad. It's very distressing. But there's nothing anybody can do about it now."

The doctor turned in surprise to Ted, who said, "I'd imagine e's completely right, Doctor. E's very good with animals, very sensitive to what's 'appening to them. Also, if e doesn't know something, e tends to say 'I don't know,' right straight up with no 'if's' or 'but's.' If e says something is such and such way about an animal or a watch, I'd say a good rule a thumb is to assume e's right until you know otherwise."

"I hadn't even noticed there was a robin's nest out there," the doctor said. "That's extraordinary, Mr Evans."

"Aaaa-aah. Aaaa..."

"E prefers that everyone call im 'Charlie.'"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Charlie. I shall do so from now on."

"It's not so important. Thank you for understanding."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 16

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15

At about 12:19 PM on Thursday the following week, the 31st of May, Ted slapped a man on the back of his head, slapped him so hard that it gave a resounding crack and sent the man stumbling forward for several steps. Charlie turned and looked as the man stumbled past him. It looked as if he were going to fall, but he righted himself again. This was one of two men who had been walking toward them as they walked across the bridge toward Westminster. One of them had called out to Charlie "Oy!" and took off his cap and was holding it over his heart, "d'ya mind if we have a look at the watch?" Charlie was reaching to take the Latham Model 100 out of his pocket, the one Albert had let him pick out of all one hundred of them, with an emerald-green face and a gold case and chain. Part of the face actually was covered with emeralds, the rest was gold covered with emerald-green lacquer which kept a very high shine.

Charlie had taken his hand away from his watch pocket again when Ted slapped the man. The man had managed not to fall, but he had dropped his cap. Before he'd righted himself Ted had begun to shout at the two men, turning back and forth from one to the other and holding one of his enormous forefingers very close to their faces: "Oy! Ya don't bother this one! Ya don't touch him, ya don't touch any of his fings, and you certainly don't try to rob him! D'ya understand me? Oy! I asked you a question!"

The man Ted had struck mumbled, "Oy, Guv, we understand," as he picked up his cap and set it on his head again with both trembling hands. The other said, "Yeah, Captain, we hear you loud and clear."

"Good! Understanding is a glorious fing. Now piss off on out of it!" The two men ran away toward Lambeth without a look back. They were both about average size, but when Ted had slapped one of them and yelled at them both he'd made them seem very small. Charlie guessed that Ted was about six foot five, and his shoulders were very broad and he had very big rippling muscles in his arms and legs, you could see that through his shirt sleeves and trouser legs. They watched the men running away for a while, then Ted turned to Charlie and clapped him gently on the shoulder and said softly, "Alright then." Charlie didn't mind when Ted clapped him on the shoulder. He knew that Ted came with him to keep him safe. These occasional claps on the shoulder were the only times Ted touched him, and, just as when his Dad hugged him or toussled his hair, he knew that these claps on the shoulder were meant to express good will and the intent to protect him.

Charlie asked, "Were they going to -- "

"Yeah, Charlie, they were going to try to steal your watch."

"How do you know?"

"Hm. It's hard to put into words."

"Is it because of their social class?"

"Ah, well, no, Charlie, it wasn't that. I'm from the same class as they are. It may be that most of the people who'd try to steal a man's watch are from the lower classes, but not everybody from the lower classes is a fief."

"I guess I'm from the same classes myself."

"There you go, Charlie. Have you ever even thought about robbing someone?"

Charlie stood for a moment, trying to recall such thoughts, and then replied, "No."

"There ya go, Guv."

"Aaaaahhh. Aaaa, yah."

"What's wrong, Charlie?"

"It's... I'd like it better if you just called me 'Charlie.'"

"But I do call you 'Charlie.'"

"Just then you called me 'Guv.'"

"Oh, I see. Sorry."

"It's not a bad thing. It just confuses me when people call me 'Guv' or 'Sir' or 'Mr Evans' or 'Charles' or 'Friend' or 'Matey.' It's like when there's somebody else around named Charlie. I'm not sure whether people are talking to me or someone else."

Ted was basically Charlie's bodyguard now, and the Lathams had given him that position when they gave Charlie the gold-and-emerald Model 100. At first Ted -- like many others -- had been alarmed by the idea of Charlie carrying around a watch worth well over a thousand quid. "This ain't exactly a posh part of town," he'd said to Albert. "I know, you and your fahver and brover carry watches like that, and some customers come and go with them, but... You know what I'm saying, Sir."

"Yes, I do know."

"He's different."

"Yes, he is. But, you know, we're different too. You, me, the whole firm. We want to change things."

"Yes, Sir, and you have changed things -- "

" -- We have changed things."

"Alright, thanks for saying so. We have changed things. But do we go around asking for trouble?"

"Yes, that's exactly what we do."

"Sir?"

"Anytime anybody wants to make a real change for the better for people who need help, they're told, 'You can't do that.' Every time someone shows any ambition to rise above what is supposed his 'station' in life, he or she is told, 'You can't do that. You'll fail. Well sod that. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, Sir," Ted had answered, and he felt the glow in his chest he had often gotten from working for the Lathams, "you've shown it to me before, but fank you for reminding me: you mean that if you actually want to change fings, as opposed to merely sitting around wif a bunch of pooves talking about changing fings, you're going to have to upset some people." It wasn't the extremely high wages he and all the other Latham employees got which gave Ted this periodical warm feeling -- it was the arrogant determination to change the world which was behind those wage rates and many other things they did. It had occurred to Ted then that the wages were an example of things which people said couldn't be done. No doubt people told the Lathams that they couldn't pay their people so much, that they would go broke and that it would spread anarchy and chaos and crime and disease and so forth, and, well, that it was simply impossible. It was the way that the Lathams, some more than others, Albert particularly, whenever people told them, "You can't change the world," as all of us are constantly told, said, "Sod that, watch me, I'm changing it."

Back on the bridge, Charlie said, "You 'read' them. That's what it's called, isn't it? People 'read' other people. That's how you knew they wanted to take my watch. I can't read people. I'm not good at it at all."

"That's okay, Charlie. We all have strong points and weak points. Your strong points are very strong."

"Yes, I'm becoming well-known for watch repair. And for 'reading' animals. I do that unusually well."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 15

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14

At about 10:05 on the same Monday morning, about the same time that Latham had a panic attack leading to his confessions to Brown, Chief Superintendent Martin rose from behind his desk and shut the door to his office, because Inspector Raymond had begun to shout most indiscreetly. As he settled back into his chair, Raymond had not interrupted or slowed down his screed: " -- because how do I know you're really with us on the Left? Because you say you are. That's all I've got to go on. How do I know that Smith had to be dealt with that way, for the greater good, for the sake of things I believe in? Again, your say-so is all I have."

"Raymond! Do please try to calm down. You ought to take a leave of absence, for the sake of those very same things you and I believe in. At least you finally stopped wearing Smith's watch on that great bloody platinum chain -- yes, I noticed that, of course I did, do you think others didn't?"

"One other person did, at least. He took it off me. Someone I know is my friend." At last Raymond had stopped shouting. Through the glass walls of his office Martin saw entirely too many policemen looking up from their desks in their direction.

"Good," he said to Raymond. "Be grateful you've got friends. Think of your friends, and how your behavior and appearance can affect their safety, and what they try so hard to do."

"You might want to be just a bit careful lecturing me about my friends' safety, Sir. You going to have me dealt with if I'm too troublesome, like you had Smith dealt with? Or maybe finally I'll just decide that I need to deal with you before you deal with me."

"Oh please don't be melodramatic! A bit ironic, while we're at it, you lecturing me right now about being careful. Do try to calm down and think for a moment, Raymond. My word is in fact not all that you have about Smith, you also have someone rather widely known as a Leftist, known not previously to have been in the pocket of the reaction, suddenly sporting suits costing a month of his salary apiece, and that expensive watch on the end of that bloody great platinum chain. In Smith's case, in fact, you have my word, plus his extremely erratic behavior."

"But about you, all I have is your word. You could well be a triple-agent passing yourself off as a double-agent, giving just enough help to me and others like me to keep the flow of information going the other way. Well, I'm tired of it. I want to be given more information about your network, I want to be reassured that the man I've been working for is who he says he is. Yes, I suppose the reasonable thing to do would be to take some sick leave, go to the country for a week or two, maybe to a spa, have you tell everyone I'd just needed a break, then come back and as if all I'd needed was a rest. Well sorry, but I just don't feel like being so reasonable. I think I've earned the right to make some demands. For all I know about you, you might be neither a double- nor a triple-agent, but an independent, pretending to be on everyone's side but really on no-one's side, merrily lying to everyone you meet and plundering everyone you can. Your great big house and your piles of cash are real, whether you swindled the reaction of them or not."

"Yes they are. I also have to constantly pretend to flatter and serve people I despise. I'm quite aware that almost everyone thinks I'm a corrupt lackey for them. I know that any day, I could be arrested, if the state suddenly decides to punish corrupt police officers, or I could be blown to bits by a bomb thrown by someone because he shares my ideals -- assuming I actually haven't been lying through my teeth to you for years. You ever consider things like that?"

"I have, I have," Raymond mumbled.

"Alright then. You've earned the right to be unreasonable. You've certainly earned the right to know more." Martin picked up the phone and told the operater, "House of Commons, terminal twelve... Yes, hello, it's Martin... Yes yes, Chief Superintendant Martin, please get me Griggs... Well then you'll just have to interrupt him. This is urgent... " As he apparently waited for someone named Griggs to come to the phone, Martin took a piece of paper and wrote on it. "Griggs. Put everything you've got on file 12 into a packet and bring it to my station... Well then you'll have to reschedule your meeting, and extend to everyone my sincere apologies for disrupting their schedules. Get it all into one package, write '12' on the package, and nothing else, bring it to my station, hand it to the sergeant at the front desk, tell him it's for me, and leave. Don't say anything about the package, don't say your name or where you work, don't engage in small talk if you happen to know the sergeant personally, don't hang about at all, just say the packet's for me and get out of there. Oh, and forget you ever knew anything about something called file 12. Thanks very much, Griggs." Martin hung up and handed Raymond the piece of paper he'd been writing on. There were several names on it, including the names of two Labour MP's. "Tell all of these people that I've widened your circle of confidential contacts. If they act like they don't know what you're talking about, it means you're visiting them before I've had a chance to tell them you were coming, in which case just have them telephone me. Now, file 12: that's a dossier on Smith. Plenty of things to investigate, and figure out how accurate I was when I talked to you about him. I am sorry, you know. It's a bloody awful thing, killing a friend."

"Killing anybody," Raymond said.

"You ever kill anyone in the Army?"

"I don't know if I did or not," Raymond said. "In a couple of different battles a bunch of us shot away at each other from hundreds of yards apart. I fired my rifle into the middle of some clouds of smoke, mostly. No idea whether I hit anyone or not. Never was in any hand-to-hand fighting."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 14

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13

"I'm not. Often he can fix a watch with his bare hands. He's got such control of his fingertips that he can unscrew a tiny screw with his index finger, and screw it back in with his finger when he's done. When a screw was too tight to use his hands, he used the blade of a folding pocket-knife. Besides that knife, he kept a pair of tweezers in his workspace in his father's pub, and I believe that may've been all of the tools he was using before we met. We've given him proper loupes and tools and lamps he can use at home now, in addition to his work desk at the plant. And of course having decent tools has just fired him off like a rocket, in terms of what he can do, and how fast."

"So does he have any interesting designs for new watches?" Brown asked.

"Um, no. We were very hopeful about that at first, but the idea of designing something new doesn't seem to interest him at all. He wants to fix things. He sees a watch and as if he immediately imagines a Platonic ideal of the perfect version of that watch, and he wants the watch to be as close to that imaginary perfection as it can be. And that's how he expresses it, too: as approaching perfection. He's quite clear that he doesn't consider any existing thing to be perfect, and that everything is just a matter of trying to come close to perfection. If it's close enough to perfection it gives him pleasure. If it's not it can distress him quite a bit. And we're not just talking about watches here, he wants to fix everything he possibly can: he'll move a fork a tenth of an inch to make a table place-setting more symmetrical. He'll insist on walking a certain route because it'll shave ten paces off of a half-mile walk. He'll complain that there are too few pigeons sitting on a statue to make a pleasing arrangement. He'll notice if an animal is injured. He's very concerned about animals. He might see that a pigeon has a sore foot, and he can't do anything about that, and it upsets him greatly. He'll see that a shoe on a horse pulling a hansom cab is loose, or too thick or too thin, and he'll try to tell the driver about it. Some drivers actually listen to him about such things, because, ...Hmm. Well, because they've learned that he's always right. He's simply a genius."

"That's extraordinary," Brown said. "I'd only heard about the watch repair, I hadn't realized his talents extended to those other things. But I gather that he's also, oh... Forgive me..."

"Yes, in addition to his unusual abilities he also has unusual weaknesses. He doesn't understand people very well. He can be quite awkward socially. And so at first many people assume that he's quite simpleminded, when in fact the opposite is the case. Let me put it this way: he's very sharply focused on some things, such as watch repair, while he has great difficulty focusing on some other things which most people understand, and take for granted that others will understand them too. For example, if a group of people are walking and conversing, it will be clear to most people that whatever it is they're talking about is likely to be much more important than whether the route they take to their destination gets them there a few seconds sooner. Crowds generally are difficult for him. He doesn't seem to lie, as far as I can tell, nor do I think he can tell when others are lying. Not right away. Sometimes he'll figure out after the fact that things which have been said don't all add up. That can sometimes distress him quite a bit. In some respects he's innocent in the extreme."

"You said that crowds generally are difficult for him. Generally, but not always?"

"That's right, not always. Depends very much on the particular crowd," Latham said. "What are you getting at?"

"Well. He's obviously an extraordinary man. I thought it might be nice to introduce him to society."

"You want to show him off as a freak at one of your parties." Latham knew this wasn't quite accurate and he blushed as soon as he'd said it.

"Latham! What do you take me for?" Latham had begun to breathe heavily and to become dizzy. He felt the need to rock and forth or moan, to do something to soothe himself. Something or other which he always did after he had gone off by himself and hidden. He felt that whenever the conversation was about Charlie, people perceived that he was unusual like Charlie, although they never admitted this to Latham's face. He imagined them laughing at him and Charlie behind his back. He was fairly sure that it didn't happen quite as often as he imagined, that these anxieties were irrational. But it was hard to control them, and the fear that he would be exposed as a lunatic, and sent to some torture-chamber of an asylum, never to be released. This fear of awful asylums was even more irrational than the concern that people could see that he shared Charlie's characteristics, and that they regarded both of them as imbeciles, but it was hard to banish the fear even as he recognized it as irrational. Latham was upset with himself for confiding in Inspector Raymond about autism. Raymond simply didn't understand. He'd been the wrong one to confide in. Or perhaps, on the other hand, it was the secrecy which had been ill-advised all along, and he ought to have been perfectly open about his condition all along, never made the slightest attempt to conceal the ways in which he was unusual. Various scenarios of alternate pasts, if he had done or not done this or that, and imaginings of various possible consequences for each choice he might have made differently, began to race faster and faster through his mind, and the need to get away, to rock, to clutch his head and wring his hands and moan, became ever more desperate. Brown was saying, "Latham! My God, what's wrong? Do you need some water, some brandy? Do you need a doctor?" Obviously, Brown was a much better one to confide in than Raymond. But he had to open up generally. Let people think what they would. As with anything, the more intelligent would understand and the stupid ones would draw stupid conclusions. No one was going to put him into an asylum. Get it out, get it out. Tell the truth at last.

"Water," he said to Brown. "Water, please." Brown went running out of the office and soon was back with a glass of water. In the meantime Latham had begun to rock and moan and wring his hands, and this time when he was no longer alone he didn't attempt to hide these behaviors. He took the glass from Brown, drank down half of it at a gulp. It was icy and good. He put the glass down on Brown's desk, Brown raised a hand as if to lay it comfortingly on his shoulder, he gestured for Brown to please keep his distance, Brown understood the gesture and and stayed back. Latham took another gulp of water and nodded toward Brown's desk. Again, Brown understood the wordless request, and he went back and sat behind his desk again.

And then Latham told him, in detail, about how he shared many of Charlie's characteristics, with the major differences that neither his genius nor his social awkwardness was as pronounced as Charlie's, and that since early childhood, sensing much better than Charlie did how some people reacted to others who were different, he was in the deeply-ingrained habit of hiding the ways in which he was atypical. About the effort it took him to attempt to blend in. How things like the rocking and moaning and hand-wringing, which he usually did in secret, helped calm him down when his mind began to race uncomfortably. Clutching his head also, and striking the tendons below his knees and under his feet to set off his reflexes, how these and other things also helped. Things like a drink or two, for instance, or the company of some pretty girl or other with whom he managed to get along. How he had instantly known that he had many of these things in common with Charlie, the moment he'd first seen Charlie in agony, being held down by two constables on a crowded Waterloo station platform while an inexpert doctor methodically made things worse. About his anxieties about being confined in an asylum, and how he realized that those fears were irrational. Each big secret he gave up to Brown was like a heavy stone lifted off of his chest. He could breathe easily again. "I know you would never want to show anyone off as a freak," he said the Brown, "I know you're not like that at all. I lashed out because I was panicking. I'm sorry."

"My dear fellow," Brown said. "My dear Albert."

"I really prefer being called Latham. Sorry."

"Not a problem at all, Latham. Well, I must honestly say, as far as I was ever able to tell, you always fit in quite convincingly. Only thing a bit unusual about you has been how little eye contact you make. Just a split-second here and there to sort of ground things, and otherwise you're staring off somewhere. But even that isn't terribly unusual. I had no idea at all. My god, the strain it must have cost you."

"So, yes, by all means, let's let you have a party and introduce Charlie to some nice sensible people. You're quite right, it's time to introduce him to the wider world. What sort of event did you have in mind?"

"I was thinking of my uncle's place, actually. Does Charlie like the countryside?"

"I've no idea. I'll ask. And of course you've got to invite Charlie's Dad as well. I'm not sure how often he leaves the pub to someone else, or for how long."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 13

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12

The next Monday, the 21st of May, at around 10:01 AM, Brown, the man with whom the Latham concern generally dealt at Harrods, was exclaiming over some watches Latham had brought to show him. They custom-built some individual watches to order, and then they made watches like these, in models. Latham's grandfather had been the first in the firm to put a number to a group of similar watches, dubbing them Model 1 in 1854. They had reached Model 100. Unlike the other models, which they had built until demand petered out and/or a newer and better model had replaced them, they had decided to make exactly one hundred Model 100 watches. They were all done now, and Latham had brought ten of them to show to Brown. There were in an office away from the main ground-level floor at Harrods. Latham had chosen 10 pieces which he felt well-represented the variety of cases and faces in the Model 100 series.

"But the movements are all the same?" Brown asked.

"Identical."

"Beautiful," Brown said. Latham had come to the puzzling realization lately that many, perhaps most of their customers actually knew little and cared less about watches, and bought them mostly to impress other people who also knew practically nothing about how watches worked, or even which ones were more accurate or reliable than others, but had remarkably accurate knowledge about how much the customers had paid for them -- unlike most of the people who ended up wearing their watches, the shops who bought them wholesale tended to have a pretty exact idea of what they were buying. And Brown here was a true connoisseur. He had unscrewed the back case of one of the Model 100's, removed the cover and was looking at the whirling movement through a loupe. Brown was one of the few people Latham would allow to take apart a Latham watch which he hadn't yet purchased. Latham would disassemble a watch for some others, and watch closely to make sure they didn't damage it. But Brown here was okay.

"There's the same price for each watch," Latham said, "although, as you can see, of course, some of the cases and faces were more expensive for us to build than others." Latham winced a bit, but said exactly what his father and his brother William had asked him to say: "Our prices for series watches have always been negotiable in the past, and especially for good customers such as Harrods, but for the Model 100 I'm afraid it's take it or leave it. Thirteen hundred pounds apiece."

Latham had expected Brown to pretend that he was outraged at such a price, and to have to go through some back-and-forth before Brown either took it or left it, but instead Brown just said, "I'm not even going to pretend that that isn't a bargain."

Latham smiled. He really did like Brown. With him, there was very little of the bargaining nonsense Latham encountered with many buyers, and which he also observed in William. They seemed to enjoy that sort of thing, which to Latham was like pulling teeth. Perhaps Brown was bargainer too, most of the time? And sensed that Latham didn't care for it? He continued, again, exactly as his father and William had asked him to: "There's one exception to this firm price: if Harrods buys all of the available Model 100's, the price will be eleven hundred pounds apiece."

"All one hundred, eh?"

"I'm sorry, no, three are already off the market," one in a display case at the plant, one to be auctioned off and the proceeds given to the Salvation Army, and the other, at Latham's insistence, was now in Charlie's pocket. "It's felt that -- Ehh! Excuse me for speaking to you that way -- my brother feels that there could be some considerable marketing cache both for our firm and for Harrods if we make this an exclusive deal with you. He's even speculated about the deal making headlines."

"I daresay it will. This is news, my good man. Ah, I should say, it would make news. I'd like to go ahead and say yes, but with... Ah... Eleven hundred times -- "

"One hundred and six thousand and seven hundred pounds."

"Thanks, old chap. You really do such sums in your head, don't you?" Brown seemed honestly surprised. Latham was surprised that Brown hadn't been able to do the math in his head. But this was apparently another example of how people like him and Charlie were unusual. "With an amount as high as a hundred and six thousand and seven hundred pounds, I can't say yes or no on my own. Afraid I'm not quite that far along in my career yet. Don't want to make you a promise about something that's not done yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll say yes." Brown was putting the watch back together again. "There's been a lot of excitement about this around here."

"That's gratifying."

"So," Brown said, "I've heard about your prodigy. Your young man Charlie Evans."

Latham was quite startled. He felt his heart pound in his chest. Who'd been talking about Charlie? Then he reflected that customers came and went in the plant all the time, and that they'd seen Charlie at work and exclaimed about him, and that it certainly wasn't his place to expect them not to talk about it to others. He cleared his throat and said, "'Prodigy.' Yes, that's exactly right. Happened to run into him when I was consulting on a police investigation, and Charlie was a witness."

"They say he's an amazing repairman."

"Better than I am. Miles better."

"You're exaggerating," Brown said.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 12

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11

"Oy!" somebody called.

Charlie looked in the direction of the voice and saw two men walking toward him, looking at him. He looked back at the sky and replied, "Oy."

"You the one fixes watches?"

"Yes, I am."

"You think you could fix this one?" Charlie looked at them again and saw that one of them had taken an old watch made by Thomas Fuller out of his pocket. The case was badly dented and most of its silver plating was gone, and the brass underneath was dull. All three of the hands were still there, but Charlie could see that the second hand was not seated, was almost about to fall off, and wouldn't turn anymore if the watch were running. The minute hand was bent.

"You have to talk to my Dad first." Charlie pointed to the front door of the pub. "He runs the pub. First you talk to him. If you make a deal, then I look at the watch."

"Your Dad have another name, besides 'Dad'?"

"Aa... aa... Yeah. His name's Pete. He runs the pub."

"You charge anything for taking the watch apart and looking at it, even if you can't fix it?"

"My Dad... My Dad handles the money." Charlie couldn't understand money. Money had to do with the way people behaved. "But no," Charlie added: "if I don't fix anything, you don't pay anything."

"Awright, cheers," and the two men went behind him and into the pub as Charlie continued to look at the sky. The two pigeons had disappeared from that rooftop. Charlie's father had tried and tried to explain money to him, and Charlie had tried hard to understand, but over and over his mind went numb as he tried to listen, and his father's words made no sense to him. With money there were always deals and discounts and bonuses and such, and Charlie had made no progress in understanding those things. You had to "read people," as his Dad put it, in order to be able to make deals well.

The lovely purple was fading into dark blue in the sky and it was getting colder. He went into the pub just as his father and the two men were walking toward the front door. "Ah, Charlie," his Dad said. "I was just telling these two gents I thought they'd be better off just buying another watch. Gave them the names of some places to look for one. And I said maybe you might have one for sale as well -- ?"

"Not at the moment, Dad."

"Ah, well."

"I don't mind lookin' at it, Dad?"

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Nothin else planned at the moment, and I'm curious what I'll see."

Charlie's Dad said to the men, "I don't want to get your hopes up here. We're talking about five minutes, maybe more."

"Maybe less," Charlie said.

"What do you think?" one of the men said. There was a pause. Charlie was looking at the floor. He wondered whether the men were communicating by looking at each other. Charlie couldn't communicate that way. "Alright," said one of the men. "I could do with a half-pint of that IPA, I think."

Charlie took the watch into his little workshop just off of the pub's main room. Mr Latham had given him a lamp and loupes and tools and parts to bring back home, in addition to those things which he said were now Charlie's at the Latham plant. Mr Latham encouraged Charlie always to use the loupes and to keep whatever he was working on well-lit, whether by sunlight through a window or by a lamp. The loupes and lamps made a huge difference in the ease of working on watches.

Charlie checked the time when he started to work. Ninety seconds later he had many of the Fuller's parts spread across his desk top, and he called for his father. After his Dad had closed the workshop door behind him Charlie said, "It's gonna need seven new parts. I have three of them."

"Right. Hang on." Charlie's Dad popped back out, then very soon he was back and saying, "All right then, Son, put it back together for them. Very polite of you to offer to look at it, but they're going to get another watch."

"Dad, do you want to see if they'll sell it to us?"

"No, Charlie, I do not."

Charlie was disappointed at that, but he put the Fuller back together, seating the second hand so that it would turn properly when the watch was running again, and straightening the bent minute hand.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

People Who Doubt The Authenticity Of The Gospel Of Jesus' Wife Seem To Be Grasping At Straws

(Before I begin here, let me try to be as clear as possible: "authenticity" means that the famous postcard-sized piece of papyrus containing the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife is ancient, that is: more than 1000 years old, and perhaps over 1600 years old, and not a 19th-or 20th-century forgery. No serious academics are saying that this text records the actual words of Jesus, talking about his wife. None of them are saying this proves that Jesus was married. What Prof King has said all along, consistently, is that this document may perhaps show that one group of early Christians thought of Jesus as having been married. It's a real shame that so many people are somehow managing not to hear her.)

Professor Karen L King, who came under heavy criticism in 2012 when she presented the so-called Gospel of Jesus' Wife to the public in 2012, when critics said it was a modern forgery, and not a 4th-century Coptic translation of a 2nd-century Greek text, seems to have been at least partially vindicated.

But some experts are still skeptical:

"Brown University Egyptology professor Leo Depuydt [...] points to grammatical mistakes that he says a native Coptic writer would not make"

If Depuydt is right about that: so what? King says this is a 4th-century translation of a 2nd-century Greek text. There's no reason why a native speaker of Greek in the 4th century couldn't have translated something into Coptic, making mistakes no native Coptic speaker would have made. Ideally translations are made by native speakers of the language being translated into. Ideally, but certainly not always, as countless people of many different natives languages have discovered when they've had great difficulty trying to decipher texts in their own native languages in owner's manuals for appliances.

Depuydt says, "the text … is a patchwork of words and phrases from the [...] Coptic Gospel of Thomas."

And again I say: if Depuydt is right, so what? A 4th-century translator could've been familiar with the Gospel of Thomas, which was not officially condemned by the Orthodox authorities until the 4th century. If his or her native language was Greek, it would be only natural for him or her to depend on words and phrases which he or she knew from a Coptic text, such as, for example, the Gospel of Thomas.

Depuydt is not convincing me at all that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a modern forgery. If this is the best that the skeptics have, then I say, forget 'em, and consider the artifact to be authentic. (And forgive me for being a broken record, but please be sure you understand what is meant here by "authentic," as explained in italics and bold print at the beginning of this blog post.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 11

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10

At about 7:51 PM on the same day, Charlie was standing outside his father's pub looking at two pigeons silhouetted against the sky as they perched on a roof across the street. Charlie loved the violet of a twilight sky before sunset on a clear day, and often went outside to look at it. Pigeons carried diseases which potentially could hurt people. Charlie didn't know whether pigeons ever got into the pub's trash bins, in the alley behind the pub. The bins were covered, but the covers didn't fit flush, there were gaps. Charlie didn't know what animals could squeeze through those gaps. He wasn't particularly worried about pigeons at the moment. His father told him that no-one could possibly worry about everything even if he wanted to, and so you had to concentrate on important things. If there were ever a lull in Charlie's conversation with his Dad, he had a list of topics he could bring up. But Charlie and his Dad usually didn't run out of things to talk about, and the pigeons and the trash were pretty far down the list.

Most of the potential danger came from other people. Charlie knew that most people understood each other much better than he could, and even they worried about each other a lot. Charlie understood animals much better than most people did. He was never to touch a pigeon, or any dead animal he found lying somewhere. If he saw a dead animal he was to tell his father. Charlie was only supposed to touch animals if his father had said it was okay. He had petted some horses on their noses and necks and given them carrots and apples to eat. He liked horses and dogs and cats. Touching animals didn't hurt like touching people did. Also, Charlie could figure animals out mostly, want they wanted and how they felt, and he mostly couldn't figure people out. You couldn't even always go by what people said, because sometimes people lied. Animals never did.

There were two dogs which were often brought to the pub by their owners, which Charlie's Dad had said he could play with. Charlie especially liked one of them, a large golden Labrador. There were things that most people did better than Charlie, and then there were things that Charlie did better than most people. He was unusually good with animals. Cats which were usually very shy would come running from their hiding places to rub against his ankles and purr, or jump into his lap if he was sitting. With cats you had to be very still and let them start things up, and always be very gentle.

The first time Charlie had seen the large golden retriever he said, "Aw, Dad, he's beautiful! Can I pet him, please, please?!" Charlie's Dad smiled and told him to ask the dog's owner, and the dog's owner had said it was alright, and Charlie bent over and put his arms around the dog's neck and his head against the dog's head and said, "That's a good doggy. Yes that's a very good doggy. Ooooohhhh, doggy doggy doggy! Yes! Yes! good doggy!" and so forth. Charlie knew how to talk to dogs, it just came naturally to him. It was mostly in the tone of the voice, and also noticing the dog's reaction to your voice and reacting in turn. It didn't matter what words you said. Lots of people said that their dogs knew their own names, that when their owner called their name they came running, but Charlie believed they were wrong. He thought it was the tone of the owner's voice that the dog recognized and not the word being said. Same with dogs understanding commands: without even realizing it, people always said a certain command in a certain tone, and then they became convinced that their dogs understood English. If a dog was barking and the noise was bothering Charlie, he could make the dog be quiet just by pointing a finger in its direction. That first time he petted the golden retriever, he could feel its big wagging tail thumping against his back the whole time. Finally he let go and sighed and stood up again, and the dog's owner said to Charlie, "You made his day!" and Charlie's father had said, "Are you talking to my son or to your dog?" And Charlie and his father and the dog's owner had all laughed, and the dog had looked from one laughing face to another with his tail going to beat anything. That was years ago but Charlie laughed again now thinking about it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 10

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

At about 2:31 PM the next day, Friday, Latham, walking across the bridge toward Westminster, was able to determine that the large policeman shambling toward him was, in fact, Inspector Raymond. He hadn't seen Raymond since the incident at Waterloo station. Not very many paces later, Latham began to suspect that the large-linked watch chain protruding from Raymond's waistcoat pocket was platinum; when they were within twenty paces of each other he was sure it was. Then they were face to face, and stopped and stood there, neither one saying Hello or anything else for the nonce. Finally Latham said, "That's an extraordinary watch-chain, Inspector. D'ya have a rich aunt die on you lately?" The two of them weren't in the habit of laying hands upon one another, but Latham unceremoniously pulled the watch from Raymond's pocket, a Waltham 1883, yes, it was the very same watch Charlie had described to him, the same in every detail down to the unusual, deep scratch next to the stem. Latham unfastened the chain from Raymond's vest, looked around to make sure no other pedestrians were near them on the bridge, and tossed the watch and chain into the Thames. "Don't worry," he told Raymond, "I'll get you a new one, you know I will, you just have to ask. You like that sort of heavy chain, no problem. I'll give you a beautiful heavy platinum watch to match it."

They just stood there for a while, neither one knowing what to say. Finally Latham asked Raymond, "So, what are you up to?"

Raymond shrugged several times before he spoke: "To tell you the truth, I'm wandering around aimlessly."

"You look terrible. Pardon my saying so, I say it out of concern."

"I know. I know you do. I know I do."

Latham looked around again to be sure that they were out of anyone's hearing, and asked, "How long were you wearing that watch and chain?"

"A week, a day and a few hours."

"Good."

"Good?"

"It's clear that you're very upset about something. And that's bad. What I meant is that it's good that, apparently at least, you're not so upset that you've lost all sense of time. Good Lord, has it been a week since you've changed your clothes? Never mind, answer me this instead: have you got fresh clothes at home?"

Raymond nodded: "Yup."

"Right." Latham whistled loudly, an empty hansom cab stopped, Latham herded Raymond into. "Oh," he said, "I don't know your address." Raymond gave the driver his address in Lambeth. They were silent for the several minutes it took the cab to get there. Once Latham got Raymond into a hot bath in his flat, he said, "Look, I understand how sometimes you can't tell someone something. It may hurt my feelings when that someone is me, but I understand that there are more important things in the world than my hurt feelings. The thing is, Charlie, ahhh... I don't think Charlie understands the concept of secrecy."

"Charlie? Ah, you mean that imbecile back at Waterloo Station?"

"He's not an imbecile!"

"You sure?" Raymond asked. "The way you say that, sounds like you've said it several times already."

"He's not an imbecile. Without him you never would've identified that watch and chain."

"No?"

"No. And he would've spotted the chain several times further away than I did. A football field away. At dusk."

"Would he have now?"

"You remember the drawing of the watch, in the packet I sent you?"

"Yeah."

"You know Charlie made that drawing?"

"Oh. Actually, I hadn't realized that. Thought you drew that."

"Wish I could draw like that. Charlie banged that out in two minutes. I'm not exaggerating. Two minutes. He's a genius." He looked up to meet Raymond's eyes after saying this, saw Raymond's skeptical expression. "He's a genius in some areas, not in others. Alright?"

"Well, he seems to be a draftsman, alright."

"The drawing's nothing compared to what he can do with watches. What he can do with a watch with his bare hands. He's spending some time over at the Latham plant now, with proper tools and so forth. But I don't know. I don't know if he shouldn't better be some place like the British Museum. Or Cambridge."

"Alright, alright, I apologize for insulting your talented friend. But I believe how we started talking about him was that you said, ahh, you said that he... doesn't understand the concept of secrecy."

"I suspect he doesn't. And he's got eyes like a hawk. So you've been wearing that watch and chain for a week now. Maybe sort of halfway hoping someone would notice it and it'd get you in trouble, eh?"

"Mm. Maybe so."

"Well, if you've got a guilty conscience about something. Or if there's some shady business in the police, or somewhere else, and you sort of halfway want to expose it, because you think it's rotten -- or whatever's upsetting you, you're a grown-up and it's your business. But imagine if it hadn't been just me on the Westminster bridge. Imagine if Charlie'd been walking along beside me, and a hundred yards away from you he starts pointing at you and shouting excitedly about the watch and the chain and the man running through Waterloo Station with all the police looking for him. Charlie's as harmless as a baby, you saw that yourself. Can't even defend himself. You hurt him, all he can do is scream in pain. And just as easy as that you could've gotten him tangled up in -- God knows what, in something too horrible for you to talk about it with me, just because you're being melodramatic and wearing that watch and chain because -- I don't know why, because you're angry, or sad, or you feel guilty, I don't know. Could've turned Charlie's whole life upside-down because of some melodramatic play-acting on your part."

"Alright, alright, Latham, you've made your point. And you're right. You and me and our friends, we've chosen to carry a lot of secrets around, and we accept the risks. But Charlie hasn't asked for any of that."

"Exactly."

"So he's a wizard with watches, Charlie is."

"Oy. Only person I've ever seen who's better at fixing a watch than I am. And he's miles better."

"And you and he are both... autistic."

"Yep."

"You said you understand Charlie much better than you understand me or most people. That was disturbing."

Latham was taken aback. "Sorry, Inspector, didn't mean to disturb you, but there it is."

"But that would mean that you're..."

"Imbecilic? Try to look at it the other way round: it means Charlie isn't nearly as much an imbecile as he seems to you," Latham said, and raised his glance to see Raymond laying back in the tub and staring at the ceiling with an expression of great puzzlement, as if he were having a great deal of trouble looking at Charlie another way around. Latham was exasperated. What more did Raymond have to know in order to revise his preconceived categories of people?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! (novel about autism in London in 1900) pt 9

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

On Thursday the next week, the 17th of May, at about 10:24 AM, Latham and Charlie and Spilman were approaching a side entrance of the Latham plant. It was Charlie's 2nd visit here. He was so excited that he was jumping up and and down. As Latham unlocked the side door, Charlie shouted, "It's nice in there!" and he ran in ahead of the other two. Latham closed the door behind Charlie.

"He going to to be alright in there by himself?" Spilman asked.

"He's not by himself. Everybody in there knows him, and almost all of them like him very much or are pretending to. And this time we've got his own work table and tools waiting for him. Believe me, he'll be just fine. Won't miss the two of us a bit."

Spilman said, "Freddy tells me the drive to overturn Factory & Workshop is... dead. Deader than dead. They're worse off than when they started."

"That's what I've been told as well," Latham replied. As Spilman had said last week, the money he and his associates were going to steal, money intended to bribe MP's, couldn't be reported as stolen, because it was off the books, unreported income, and reporting the theft would instigate an investigation. But something better than they could've hoped had happened: one of the bribers did report the theft of a satchel containing thirty-five thousand pounds, which had been intended to be divided into bribes for three MP's. (Instead, it had been divided into anonymous donations to various charities in London, Liverpool and Dublin.) The courier who'd been relieved of the satchel turned out not to have very steady nerves: in exchange for anonymity and immunity from prosecution, he'd named many names in the bribery campaign. Intentionally or not, news of the bribery investigation (as well as news of the by comparison much less sensational investigation into unreported income) was leaked to the press and had made headlines five days in a row now, counting today. Unknown to the press but known to Spilman and Latham and their friends, some of the MP's who'd already received bribes had given them back. These MP's, to a man, were now publicly, loudly, denouncing bribery and corruption and singing the praises of the poor exploited salt of the Earth.

"Do you realize what a genius Charlie is?" Latham said. "I met him to begin with because, last week, he saw less than a third of the face of an ordinary watch protruding from a pocket of man running past him at full speed on a crowded railroad platform, and he knew exactly what kind of watch it was. Even saw a distinctive scratch on the case. Also, he saw from that fleeting glimpse that the watch was attached to a platinum chain. If you saw a watch chain for half a second, could you tell if it was platinum or silver or nickel or steel? I certainly couldn't. He makes incredibly detailed and accurate drawings quicker than I can blow my nose. He can fix a watch with his bare hands in ten seconds, with no magnification, that'd take me ten minutes with a ten-power loupe and five different specialized tools. Now we're giving him the loupes and all the tools and the bright lamps and a proper workspace, and the benefit of all of our experience and advice. God knows what he'll be able to do. He's simply awesome."

"He's an idiot savant, then."

"I object to the term 'idiot' being applied to Charlie."

"Hey, hey," Spilman said, "no offense to Charlie. I love the little guy, and I'm not pretending. Drop the 'idiot,' then. He's a savant. He's focused onto certain things. He identified the fugitive's watch, but remembered nothing about his face or clothes. He'll fix man's watch with his bare hands, but forget the man's name."

"Yes, he does miss a lot that most of us notice, and that is because he's focused on other things. Still. You or I could focus and concentrate as hard as we wanted to, for years, and we'd still be very far from doing some things Charlie does. As a man who loves his work, and has concentrated very hard on watches since he was a small boy, trust me when I say this."

"Oh, I believe you, Al. I know Charlie has very rare talents. I've noticed. Oh, oh... It bothers you when I call you 'Al,' doesn't it? That's alright. I'll call you Latham. It's fine. Whatever makes you comfortable. If you want me to call you 'Shirley,' I shall."

"Thanks, Spilman. 'Latham,' for now. I know it's a bit quirky of me." Latham also knew that his sensitivity about what people called him -- his family called him "Albert" or "Al," and he preferred that no one else did -- he knew that this was an example of the symptoms of the condition he shared with Charlie, who didn't like to be called "Evans." But he still hadn't talked about autism to anyone except Inspector Raymond, and his father, and Eugen Bleuler, who'd coined the term "autistic," and with whom Latham corresponded in German.

"It's fine, Latham. It makes you more comfortable, and it's no more difficult for me. So, you think some of your people may only pretend to dote on Charlie? Think there may be some resentment of the Wunderkind?"

"I have no specific suspicions of something like that. It's just -- I can't read people's minds. And from Charlie's point of view, it makes no difference. We are what we pretend to be."

"'We are what we pretend to be!'" Spilman exclaimed. "There's a portentious statement. Are you a Nietzschean? That sounded somewhat Nietzschean. 'Wir sind das, was wir vorgeben zu sein.'"

"I like Nietzsche. And Shaw. And Freud. And Marx. And Heine. And many other authors. But I don't think of myself as an -an, or an -ist, or an -ian of any sort. In fact, I hope I'm not. If I were, I think that would mean I was missing a lot of the most important points those and other great writers were attempting to make. And you, Spilman?"

"What you just said. And very well-said. I try to be my own man."

"Oh, I don't think there's the slightest doubt in your case, Spilman." They had strolled to the front doors of the factory. "Well, shall we give you a tour of the plant, then?"

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! (novel about autism in London in 1900) pt 8

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7

This is how it was: Inspector Raymond officially reported to Chief Superintendent Martin. Martin was almost universally thought to be a corrupt tool of the capitalists, in the pocket of the Liberal MP Lyle Chambers. Working in one of Chambers' many factories was known to be a very unfortunate fate. Chambers had lobbied hard against Factory and workshop, and since it had passed he'd routinely bribed officials to overlook his violations of the law. In reality, Chief Superintendent Martin was a Socialist double-agent, staying close to Chambers and other reactionary capitalists and gaining their trust in order to thwart them. For just one recent example, Martin had told Raymond about the campaign of bribes to overturn Factory and Workshop, and it had been Raymond who'd told Fontaine and Spilman.

Martin didn't tell Raymond who else knew that he was a double-agent. Not one name. And Raymond told no-one about Martin's actual activity. The information he passed along, as far as any of Raymond's other comrades believed, was either from a source Raymond wouldn't name, or from this or that person who was nothing but a name Raymond told them, persons who didn't really exist. Whenever the two of them, Raymond and Martin, discussed their real business, not official police business, they spoke one on one behind closed doors. Raymond saw someone or other from Martin's staff nearly every working day. Raymond knew that some of that staff certainly had to be Socialist double-agents just like Martin, but he had no idea which ones.

For another example, someone working for Martin had discovered that George Smith, Raymond's friend whom he had just murdered, the man who ran through Waterloo Station with a Waltham 1883 on a heavy platinum chain, a clerk in the House of Commons and a long-time well-trusted Socialist with a huge number of Socialist contacts, had begun to sell his friends' secrets to right-wingers. "By a great stroke of luck," Martin had said to Raymond on Monday, two days ago, "he sold some of that information to one of us, someone I know, another double-agent who's a capitalist tool as far as the world is concerned. As far as I know, we've been able to discredit most or all of the information in the eyes of the right-wingers Smith sold it to. But only just, and that's been extremely difficult, putting out those fires. And in the meantime, Smith's old left-wing friends are catching on that he's turned informer, while the right-wingers want more information in place of the information they've already paid for which they think is inaccurate, because we were able to discredit it. Smith is panicking, which of course makes him extremely dangerous to all of us. He put together a packet which would've exposed me, you, Fontaine, Spilman and hundreds of others, beyond anything I could do to undo it. A constable who works for me took that packet off of him on his way to sell it to -- someone, I don't know who -- and was going to take him into custody, but Smith fought him off with his fists and ran off. Smith needs to be found, and made to vanish."

"You want him dead?"

"It's an awful thing. I don't see that we've got any other choice."

And the next day, Tuesday, Raymond's men just missed Smith at Waterloo Station, chasing him off of a train headed east, and then they'd come across that strange young man obsessed with watches, and then with Latham's help interviewing that young man they'd found the pawnbroker's where Smith sold an expensive watch and put a cheaper one onto a platinum chain, and from there they found the room near Waterloo he'd been holed up in, and from there he was seen boarding another train headed east, and an unknown source -- unknown to Raymond, presumably known to Martin once again -- gave them a message that he was in that fleabag hotel in Southend, where Martin said that Raymond would meet three men. Those three men who hadn't bothered to give Raymond their names, possibly police, possibly not. And Raymond had told them he'd finish it himself.

Raymond got to the station as the morning shift was coming on. "Oy, Boss," a constable called out, "you alright?"

Raymond hadn't slept in two days and he'd just killed a friend. "Got a bit of a cold," He said. "You might want to stay a pace or two away if you haven't had it lately. Other than the cold I'm fine, thank you for asking."

A Detective Sergeant said, "I've got some reports of sightings of men with cheap watches on expensive chains, Inspector." If the Detective suspected that the watch-chain hanging from Raymond's vest was worth three hundred quid, he gave no sign of it.

"Oh, you didn't hear? Higher-ups took that case over yesterday evening. We're done."

"Sorry, Sir, I hadn't heard."

"No worries. Never need to apologize to me for working hard. You got it all written up?"

"Yessir." The detective held up an envelope.

"Right. Put it on my desk, I'll pass it along, and you're on to the next case."

"He out of London, Sir? That why we're off the case?"

"They didn't tell me a thing except that we're off of it, Detective. Ours is not to question why."