Thank you, Daniel. With your indulgence, my friends, I'll take a slightly more discursive approach in my rebuttal.
So I'm out in this absolute boondock of the sinistral sixth, the kind of distance from anything civilized that you don't even realize existed until you go out to a place like that. You take the rail to its ass-end and that's only the beginning, there's a huge bus on a highway and then a little bus on back roads and finally some kind of all-terrain vehicle whose shocks are made of some magical material that transmits unaltered -- nay, amplified -- every last irregularity of the highly irregular dirt road that you have to take to get to the Imen-fucked-off depot that serves as city center to this boondock, which is still a mile away on a dirt path worn through the grass by foot traffic -- which is the worst part, flinching at the sky the whole way. Then seven blocks of getting looked at by a bunch of land-proud autochthons who stare at my business suit as though it were a uniform for Dog-Kickers LLC, and up five flights to the shabby little apartment on whose door I knock hoping, at this point praying, that I haven't made some terrible misstep and come to the wrong place. I say the name with the knock, of course, "Aimee Leblanc?" and a woman opens the door and says "Yeah, I'm Aimee Leblanc," and the relief is so gigantic that I actually forget for several seconds what I'm going to say next.
I can hear a kid banging around in the background, not that there's much ground in back; for all that the sinistral sixth is every bit as wide open as they say it is, the apartments look just like home. Aimee is impatient, apprehensive, lank-haired and sinewy with eyes that are dull but not deep dull, the kind of dull where there seems to be a film on them so you don't know what's under. Too young to use to be pretty, but there you go. I've been thinking about how to do this all morning, of course, and into the afternoon, and the reality of Aimee Leblanc wrong-foots me in the most blindingly predictable way you could imagine: I know the bones of her history, her situation, but seeing the eye-bags, the melanoma scars, the stain of betel on her teeth and acullico on her fingertips, all the flaws and erosions of not much of a life -- is she even capable of the happiness I imagined? Is she even capable of believing this is anything but a trick?
Well, she's really annoyed by now, so I do the minimum: I hand her a very nice sleather portfolio embossed with the logo of my institution, which fluoresces tastefully with just enough bioluminescence so you'd notice, and I say, "Mlle Leblanc, I know you'll want to go over the details, but I hope you'll believe me when I say you've become a rich woman."
I've set this up very nicely, I hope you'll agree, so you're now itching to know how she'll react, and if all goes well I won't violate the covenant of not keeping you in suspense without delivering something of value during the period of let's call it suspension. I mentioned my institution, which is a name I really have to fake in this context; let's call it Dawnroad Bank, let's say the logo is the sun rising over a hill with a road stretching toward it. I think that would bioluminesce nicely. This is a few years ago now, so I look more or less like this, only quite formal -- full three-piece business suit, bespoke but made of crap jute, sleather shoes that were probably not as nice as the portfolio that I'd just handed Aimee, and a scarf and gloves that I'd shoved in my briefcase because they looked like shit, much like my coat, which I hadn't worn because it looked like shit. They do not teach you, in the offices of Dawnroad Bank, how much it strains your credibility with clients when you're standing on their doorstep shivering hard enough that you're actually a little out of breath from it. Dawnroad Bank does not often pay personal visits to clients in the boondocks of the sinistral sixth. But Dawnroad Bank never leaves money on the table.
Think about where that's gotten them now, when the skies are split like the bellies of week-drowned rats and you can't take a bite of bread without gritting your teeth on black bone-ash.
Some of you are going to want me to get to the point. You know that's not how it works. Who's here tonight? I see Aurea Laclois, the only woman in this room brave enough to admit she's whored to live so she could walk this stage; I see Ambrose Chrysaor, who still can't talk after a Champion nearly strangled him backstage for the crime of playing his part too well. Everyone here has suffered something like, and not for any "point," because any geometer will tell you that a point is defined as nothing. A thousand points adds up to empty space. And you're here, listening to me, because you know it.
I'm going to read you something. You'll understand why in a bit. Trust me when I tell you that it won't work if I wait to lay all the foundations first. I can't make you let me keep the stage; but you know you should, if this life you gave your life for is worth anything at all.
This is a story set in the world of my novel, THE DANDELION KNIGHT, which can be purchased at the following fine retailers:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dandelion-knight-matt-weber/1117992083?ean=2940148275831
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Thanks for reading!
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Pel has a story to tell. There's the girl who grew up destitute, addicted, single mother to a son she can't protect; the father who left the family, then disappeared; the old family friend, angel and demon both; the Dandelion Knight. But why tell it...