Don't Read This Book, Chapter 8

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Don't Read This Book

"With the breakdown of the Medieval system, the gods of Chaos, Lunacy, and Bad Taste gained ascendancy."

- John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces

Chapter 8

"...so," Bel continued, "with that little bit of warning from the Archduke, Nando and I went to the annual meeting of The Convention of Fiends."

"Sorry to interrupt," Nando said, "but it looks like the Tesco is opening up soon. I thought I should go get you two some disguises, maybe get Lena some extra snacks to eat as she's recovering her strength, you know." He was pulling back the curtain with the art deco circles printed on it and looking out over the parking lot at the small shopping area and the rest of Tralee visible over the stripmall's roof. From the window he could see the spire of the cathedral where Lena had been kept, but he didn't see any of their pursuers.

Bel frowned at him playfully. "Are you trying to get out of here because you're afraid of the manuscript or because you don't want to hear my recap of the meeting?"

Nando turned back to his partner. Bel was sitting on the edge of the bed now, next to Lena. Nando smiled. "Maybe both, but just a little bit."

Bel nodded toward the window and the grocery store beyond it. "Know what you're looking for?"

"I'll know it when I see it. But I really may need to take my time."

Bel grabbed one of the pillows on the bed, unusually flat for a hotel pillow, and tossed it at Nando, but he slipped out the door and closed it fast enough that the pillow hit the mirror on the door's inside.

Bel turned back to Lena. "The meeting is pretty formal and can be a bit boring. Have you ever been to a large gathering run by parliamentary procedure?"

Lena shook her head. "I've watched the major American political parties' conventions on TV."

"Okay, well, it's sort of like that but smaller and with more opportunities for individual participation and debate. More like watching your American Senate, but bigger and a little more unruly. It's hard to describe. I'll just start at the beginning."

* * *

It's not that unusual for human conventions to begin in the evening. A keynote speaker often kicks things off before the convention really gets going. But generally, the human conventions take a break for the people to sleep, then do their business during the day. The annual meeting of The Convention of Fiends began at 8:30 at night and was gaveled into recess when the sun came up. That was one of the ways it differed from a human meeting. Whether that was the most significant or the least significant difference is a judgement entirely dependent on one's species. Cows and chickens, for example, might have found the timing of the meeting to be the most important part, since, to them, humans are just as monstrous as any vampire or werewolf. Most humans, on the other had, would barely have noticed the difference in times. Part of that is due to the way Las Vegas casinos are designed to create an artificial sense of timelessness. And the other part is that most humans, seeing a giant room filled with all types of monsters, would have wet their pants and passed out regardless of the time of day.

After their meeting with the Archduke and their introduction to Josef, their third partner if they accepted the Archduke's mission and if it proved necessary, Bel took the Archduke up on his offer of a meal, and then she and Nando returned to their rooms in the New York, New York Casino. Though her hunger for blood was satisfied, she still had an appetite for another day in bed with Linda. Nando was frustrated by the knowledge that Apocalumus was close at hand but out-of-reach, and it ruined his appetite for anything, so he stayed in his room, watched soccer, and swore in Spanish at the referees and the players on both sides of the ball to make himself feel better.

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