“I need to get out more,” Dr. Zeker said. “The longer I work by myself the more essential it is that we take these walks on Sundays. Neither of us are church going men but we both appreciate the importance of ritual.” I had planned to write, but put the project on hold for the day, and told Dr. Zeker to come on over.
It wasn’t long ago I detailed Dr. Zeker’s and my getting not just new gray suits, but sword canes. They’re more like daggers, really, the double edged blade being thin and fine pointed, and about thirteen inches long. These normally remain secreted inside the walking stick, but if mortal danger should rear on the path, we’d take it down like Julius Caesar.
“Et tu Brute?”
“That’s right, Popeye.”
So we were building a ritual on Sunday mornings. The suits were part of the ritual, signifying the transformation of the space from the profane to the sacred. Life is full of unconscious patterns. A conscious pattern is a different kettle of fish. I looked into the mirror and tied a Windsor knot in the Jerry Garcia tie, black with a green vine spreading tendrils to gut level. He hit the intercom. “Let’s go.”
We were walking past City Lights, the heart of San Francisco, Grant and Columbus and Broadway. Night clubs, bars, restaurants; it’s where there are enough Italians to enforce a modicum of sensuality on the experience of dinner, or Sunday brunch. “It is the play,” Dr. Zeker said, “and the play really is the thing. If you display a revolver in the first act, it has to go off in the third act. And so earlier this morning, I ‘m staring at this dagger, and I see a reflection of my face. And I know this dagger is like everything else, it wants to fulfill its raison d’etre.”
“You mean you want to stab somebody?”
“It’s not that simple.” He sounded irritated and I wondered if he thought the dagger was going to just stab somebody all by itself, without his involvement. In my experience, “It’s not that simple” is a way of obscuring what you don’t want to see, hiding it in complexity.
We passed a building in front of which stood an Asian man in battle fatigues. He was handing out flyers. Dr. Zeker took one.
“Scope out the City,” was printed in large block letters across the top. It directed us to a building in the Financial District, which had an express elevator to the roof. On the roof were sniper emplacements. A burly man in a an expensive suit, tailored to his muscled frame, welcomed us, but not in a friendly way. He was more serious than a mere salesman, and he didn’t waste any time telling us why he was serious.
“There’s two kinds of people in the world,” he said, “lions and rabbits, predator and prey. We’re promoting a predatory society, and we’d like to introduce you gentlemen to the view of your fellows through a sniper scope.”
“Are those real guns?” I asked.
“Four oh eight CheyTac Intervention with a Kestrel forty-five hundred meteorological and environmental sensor package,” he said. “Extreme accuracy.”
Dr. Zeker said, “Do you take American Express?”
When you fire a rifle, you normally can’t hold it perfectly still, but these rifles were snuggled like baby bunnies into bags of bb’s, so that when you set the scope on a target it was dead on. Five hundred feet above the sidewalk, we could zero in on any person below us, and they had no idea they were being targeted. “It’s like I’m a drone,” Dr. Zeker said, “with armed missiles.”
“They do have live ammunition,” our host reminded us. “But it’s perfectly safe so long as you don’t pull the trigger.”
“You have to pull the trigger in the third act,” Dr. Zeker said.